Monday, Feb. 2

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New state safeguard

Permits required on all imported livestock

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[FEB. 2, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced on Friday that Illinois will put in place an additional safeguard to prevent the introduction of animal diseases that might pose a threat to public health or endanger the state's livestock industry.

Beginning Feb. 1, the Illinois Department of Agriculture will require a permit for all livestock imported into the state for production or exhibition. The requirement will give state agriculture officials advance notice of farm animals entering Illinois and the means to stop the shipment of a diseased animal before it arrives in the state.

"State government has no greater responsibility than protecting the health and welfare of its citizens," Blagojevich said. "This new safeguard will strengthen our ability to prevent animal diseases that not only pose a threat to public health but also can cause production losses that harm the financial welfare of our farmers."

Illinois currently requires a health certificate to accompany imported livestock. The certificate attests that the animals show no visible signs of contagious, infectious or communicable diseases and will be a condition for obtaining a permit.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture will issue the permits no more than 72 hours before the animals are transported. In addition to an approved health certificate signed by a veterinarian, applicants also must furnish the name and mailing address of the Illinois destination, the name and address of the consignor, and the number and species of animals in the shipment.

"The permit requirement also will improve our preparedness for an emergency," Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. "It will enable the department to better track the movement and location of livestock in the state, more easily identify animals that have been exposed to a disease and respond more quickly to contain an outbreak before it spreads."

 

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The permit requirement is the latest in a series of agriculture-related safety measures that have been implemented to protect Illinois consumers and farmers. Previous measures include:

--The hiring of 10 additional inspectors and three staff veterinarians in the department's Bureau of Meat and Poultry Inspection to maintain public confidence in Illinois' food supply.

--Increasing inspections of feed mills and sampling of feed products to ensure that cattle feed does not contain prohibited byproducts that can transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

--Providing specialized training in the diagnosis of emerging foreign animal diseases to local veterinarians, who frequently are the first to respond to an animal disease outbreak. The goal of the "first responder" program is to provide the training to one veterinarian in every Illinois county.

--Funding the development of an Internet-based system to track agricultural assets such as farms, grain elevators and food processing plants. Once completed, the first-of-its-kind system will contain a valuable database of information to identify sensitive resources and aid decision-making during emergencies.

--Organizing meetings with neighboring states to develop regional communications plans and guidelines for tracing and controlling the movement of livestock in an emergency.

Permits can be obtained by calling the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Health at (217) 782-4944. The phone line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Electronic permits also will be issued through the department's website, www.agr.state.il.us. Veterinarians, however, first must call the bureau to receive a pass code.

[News release from the governor's office]

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