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FSA looking at possible relief for U.S. bison producers

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The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is considering possible relief for U.S. bison producers.

FSA has responded to a request from the National Bison Association to find a new path of relief for bison producers impacted by Mycoplasma infection and mortality. Dr. Jeff Martin is director of research for the department of animal science at the South Dakota State University Center of Excellence for Bison Studies. He says this process has been a long time in the making.

“Mycoplasma has been around for a little over 20 years and has been wreaking havoc on many livestock systems and wildlife systems,” Martin said. “It causes pneumonia in our large animals. It has been devastating lately especially with what seems to be drought. This year was a really bad drought year. In previous years, the USDA has made the determination that Mycoplasma is a secondary infection in bison as it is in cattle.”

Martin explains the current assumption is bison are cattle, but there is a key difference.

“What we’re finding is that Mycoplasma does seem to be a primary infection in bison,” Martin said. “That distinction is key for when it comes to Livestock Indemnity Programs.”

FSA administrator Zach Ducheneaux said in a release that the agency is looking at the program requirements for the Livestock Indemnity Program and for the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program in hopes that coverage can be provided for impacted bison producers.

“We are cooperating with the USDA FSA,” Martin said. “FSA has requested that we share any data that we have in relation to known active cases for ranchers that have had Mycoplasma, and those that happened over the last year that are no longer active but have run their course.”

The FSA urges impacted livestock producers to immediately notify their local FSA office of bison death losses incurred because of Mycoplasma. That will provide the agency with important evidence documenting the extent of the losses within the bison industry.