The USDA wants to create a buffer zone to prevent the reintroduction of bovine tuberculosis to dairies located near El Paso, Texas. Just across the border from El Paso is Juarez, Mexico where many TB-infected dairy cows live.

Friday, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in cooperation with the state of Texas, were given the go ahead to buy out the dairy operations over the next two years. Estimated cost of the program is $44 million.

To participate in the buyout program, all owners must agree to dispose of their herds, close their existing dairy facilities, and they will not be allowed to start new cattle breeding operations in the area.

Up until now, a test and removal strategy has been used to try and rid the Texas herds of TB. However, re-infection continues to occur.

In October 2000, the USDA received $60 million in emergency funding to eradicate bovine TB from the country. This latest program for Texas is part of an expanded push by USDA on the TB front. Funds are currently being used to address TB in wildlife populations in Michigan, to eliminate infected and high-risk herds in the El Paso area, to assist Mexico with its eradication efforts and to deal with the international trade aspects of the disease. Texas, Michigan and California are the only remaining states with animals positive for tuberculosis.