In June of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed the creation of a CWD (chronic wasting disease) Herd Certification Program that would help control the spread of the disease. U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) supports the program and wrote to the department to encourage adoption of the rule in his home state.

Participation in the Herd Certification Program (HCP) would be voluntary and not participating will not impose any negative consequences. The objective of the HCP is to “lower the risk for introduction of CWD or to help control CWD in farmed/captive cervids by requiring consistent herd management practices as well as CWD surveillance in enrolled cervid herds. Enrolled herds that achieve and maintain certified status can be considered to be at low risk for CWD and animals from those certified herds are eligible for interstate movement,” according to USDA documents.

Sen. Casey recently encouraged the USDA to adopt the rule change in a letter to Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), after Pennsylvania experienced its first case of CWD this year. He wrote,

I urge USDA to continue CWD surveillance in farmed and captive deer and elk. I ask that USDA reasonably implement the current interim final rule for the CWD Herd Certification Program as well as the interstate movement requirements, effective on December 10th. I further request that USDA carefully consider Pennsylvania’s position in issuing a final rule. Protecting the captive herd will ensure the health and security of both our captive and wild populations of deer.

Sen. Casey seeks to help protect the hunting industry in the state. He said that Pennsylvania’s deer and elk farms contribute $40 million to the state’s economy.

“Hunting is an important part of our state’s heritage and economy. It’s critical that USDA do all it can to protect Pennsylvania’s deer from Chronic Wasting Disease,” Senator Casey said. “Responsibly implementing this new rule will help states and the federal government better coordinate their activities to help prevent future CWD outbreaks in Pennsylvania and across the country.”

Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease that is fatal to deer, elk, and moose, and is similar to Mad Cow Disease. While humans cannot contract the disease, scientists are wary of humans eating meat from affected animals. There have already been hundreds of deer deaths in several states because of the disease.

Image by David Restivo, NPS (GlacierNPS) on the flickr Creative Commons

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