LANSING – Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services regarding the presence and control of bovine tuberculosis in the northeastern part of the Lower Peninsula. 

The most recent MOU sets new requirements and procedures for some counties in that area, and because implementation of the MOU requires a new zoning order, MDARD and the DNR will hold public meetings in that region to explain the changes, answer questions, and accept comments. In addition, MDARD will be accepting public comments until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31.

The new MOU can be viewed at bit.ly/2UrsXsw. The following are some notable changes:

• Presque Isle County will remain part of the Accredited Free Zone; however, producers in that county will be required to meet requirements similar to those in the Modified Accredited Zone (MAZ), such as secondary ID tags, annual herd testing, movement testing, and movement certificates.

• Buffer Counties (Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Otsego, Roscommon), which surround the MAZ, will have new surveillance requirements. There will also be requirements for increased surveillance of free ranging deer in these counties.

• Counties currently in the MAZ (Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda) will see a minor change in movement testing requirements.

• MAZ boundaries will remain the same, and Michigan will retain its split-state TB status.

• The Wildlife Risk Mitigation verification program will be discontinued in Cheboygan and Otsego counties in order to reallocate resources to the additional required surveillance testing. Producers in these counties are encouraged to continue the risk mitigation activities on their farms.

This proposed order applies to people who own cattle or bison herds. All affected producers will be receiving letters that provide more details. Requirements and timelines will vary and will be outlined in the producer letters and in the draft zoning order.

The public meetings will include presentations, a panel discussion with Q&A, and an opportunity for the public to submit comments for the record.

Public meetings scheduled:

• Presque Isle County (afternoon), Monday, March 2, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Rogers City - Presque Isle County District Library: Large Community Room, 181 East Erie St., Rogers City.

• Presque Isle County (evening, also a Herd and Hunter Meeting), Monday, March 2, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Onaway - Allis Township Hall, 20018 County Rd., 638 Onaway

• AFZ Border Counties, Tuesday, March 3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Gaylord - Livingston Township Hall, 3218 Old 27 North, Gaylord.

• MAZ Counties (Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda, also a Herd and Hunter Meeting), Wednesday, March 4, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Hubbard Lake - Ossineke Township Hall, 9041 West Nicholson Hill Rd., Hubbard Lake.

• AFZ Border Counties, Thursday, March 5, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Whittemore Community Hall, 508 South Bullock St., Whittemore.

The proposed zoning order was submitted to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development for review during its meeting on Jan. 22. The order will also be discussed at the next scheduled meeting on March 25, and public comment is welcome. The new zoning order is proposed to go into effect on April 1, upon final approval by the MDARD director.

Public comments regarding the zoning order must be received by 3 p.m. on March 31 and can be sent by email to WalkoweA@michigan.gov; by fax to 517-241-1560; or by mail to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Animal Industry Division, Abigail Walkowe, P.O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909.