[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 86 (Friday, May 3, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25943-25945]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-10543]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

[Docket No. APHIS-2012-0023]


Changes to Scrapie Flock Certification Program

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice and request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We are giving notice of changes to the Scrapie Flock 
Certification Program (SFCP), a voluntary program for sheep and goat 
flock owners who wish to reduce and/or eliminate the risk of 
introducing classical scrapie into their flocks. In order to refocus 
the program's risk reduction strategy on animal sampling, we plan to 
eliminate the Complete Monitored category of the SFCP. This will affect 
all ``Complete Monitored'' and ``Certified'' flocks. Flock owners who 
are currently enrolled in the Complete Monitored or Certified category 
who wish to remain in the SFCP will be allowed to enroll in either the 
Select category or the Export category. This change will allow us to 
apply limited agency resources to areas that most effectively 
contribute to scrapie eradication, such as nationwide surveillance 
activities for the disease in sheep and goats.

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DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before June 
3, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0023-0001.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to 
Docket No. APHIS-2012-0023, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, 
APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-
1238.
    Supporting documents and any comments we receive on this docket may 
be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-
0023 or in our reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA 
South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, 
DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, 
please call (202) 799-7039 before coming.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Alan Huddleston, Associate 
National Scrapie Program Coordinator, National Center for Animal Health 
Programs, VS, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 39, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; 
(301) 851-3497.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:  Scrapie is a degenerative and ultimately 
fatal disease affecting the central nervous systems of sheep and goats. 
It belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform 
encephalopathies. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 
(APHIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), administers a National 
Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP) to eliminate classical scrapie from 
the United States. The Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP), 
described in regulations at 9 CFR part 54, is a voluntary program 
within the broader NSEP. Producers who elect to join the SFCP agree to 
follow a set of requirements outlined in the ``Scrapie Flock 
Certification Program Standards'' (program standards). We plan to 
revise the program standards for the SFCP. The SFCP program standards 
may be viewed on the APHIS Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/scrapie/. Printed copies may be 
obtained from the person listed above under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT.
    Since APHIS established the SFCP as part of the NSEP, SFCP 
participants have received tangible benefits from the program, 
including a reduced risk of introducing scrapie into the flock and an 
increased marketability of participating animals. However, APHIS has 
evaluated the effects of the SFCP on scrapie eradication and concluded 
that the SFCP does not support national scrapie eradication as 
effectively as other surveillance activities, such as the Regulatory 
Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance (RSSS) program, distribution of free 
eartags to sheep and goat producers, and disease investigations and 
flock clean ups. Due to budget reductions in fiscal year (FY) 2012 and 
anticipated reductions in upcoming fiscal years, the NSEP needs to 
focus resources on its most effective components. APHIS has therefore 
decided to revise the SFCP to focus resources on other surveillance 
activities. The revisions to the SFCP are expected to both increase the 
program's contributions toward surveillance by approximately 50 percent 
and to cut the cost of the voluntary program roughly in half, saving 
about $500,000 annually for surveillance activities. The revised SFCP 
will assist APHIS in continuing to move efficiently toward scrapie 
eradication.

Effects of the SFCP on Scrapie Eradication

    Our analysis of the effects of the SFCP on scrapie eradication 
found:

 Participation in the SFCP is voluntary, and participating 
flocks represent only 1 percent of the total number of U.S. sheep 
flocks and goat herds
 Participation in the SFCP has declined by about 25 percent 
since 2007
 More owners are using genotyping to reduce a sheep flock's 
risk of infection than the voluntary flock certification program
 The Complete Monitored category of the SFCP does not 
efficiently detect scrapie cases

    Surveillance and disease response activities are the most effective 
components of the scrapie program with regard to eradication. The 
ability to detect clinically healthy but infected animals and 
successfully trace them back to their infected and source flocks has 
decreased scrapie prevalence by 85 percent, from 0.2 percent in 2002-
2003 to less than 0.03 percent at the end of FY 2011. The most 
effective activities include:
 The RSSS program
 The distribution of free official eartags to sheep and goat 
producers
 Compliance enforcement at animal concentration points
 Disease investigations
    Decreased funding for these elements means that many of the 
remaining scrapie-infected animals in the United States may go 
undetected. This could cost the sheep and goat industries approximately 
$10 million to $20 million each year scrapie continues to be present in 
our national sheep and goat population.
    The SFCP is a voluntary State-Federal-industry cooperative effort 
established and maintained to monitor flocks and certify the scrapie 
status of the animals enrolled in the program. Any sheep or goat owner 
or manager may apply to participate in the SFCP. There are three 
categories of enrollment. The Selective Monitored category has the 
lowest level of monitoring, and flocks participating in this category 
cannot become certified. The Complete Monitored category has a higher 
level of monitoring, and flocks can achieve Certified status after 5 
years. The Export Monitored category has the highest level of 
monitoring, and flocks can become Export Certified after 7 years. 
Approximately 94 percent of all participating flocks are in the 
Complete Monitored category. The most significant cost of the SFCP is 
the annual inspection, which is currently required for every flock 
participating in the program.
    The revised SFCP will eliminate the Complete Monitored category. 
Participants in this category will have the following options: (1) Join 
a revised Selective Monitored category; (2) join the Export Monitored 
category; or (3) withdraw from the program. The Selective Monitored 
category will be renamed Select Monitored, to be consistent with the 
common category reference used by the sheep and goat industry. The 
revised Select Monitored category will no longer be subject to the 
annual inspection of all animals conducted by an APHIS or State 
representative under the former Selective Monitored category. We expect 
that 40 percent to 60 percent of current Complete Monitored category 
participants will either join the Select category or withdraw from the 
program, and the remaining 40 to 60 percent will join the Export 
Monitored category. Because the revised Select Monitored category would 
no longer require an annual inspection, the cost of the SFCP will be 
cut roughly in half, saving about $500,000 annually for surveillance 
activities. Additionally, the Select Monitored category will have a new 
sampling requirement; flocks that join the Select Monitored and Export 
Monitored categories will therefore contribute a greater number of 
animals for scrapie testing than in the current

[[Page 25945]]

program. The reduced cost of the SFCP and the increased surveillance 
achieved through the revised program will allow APHIS to continue to 
move efficiently toward full scrapie eradication.
    If a participant with a flock currently in the Complete Monitored 
category chooses to join the Export Monitored category instead of the 
Select Monitored category, the flock will become an Export Monitored 
flock with the same status date that it held on its conversion date. If 
it is a Certified flock, it will become an Export Monitored flock with 
5 years of time in status. APHIS will list the flock as both an Export 
Monitored flock and a Certified flock on its Web site for 3 years or 
until it achieves Export Certified status. After 3 years, flocks that 
have not achieved Export Certified status would be listed only as 
Export Monitored. Most former Certified flocks that join should be able 
to achieve Export Certified status within 2 years, since Certified 
status required 5 years of successful monitoring and Export Certified 
status requires 7 years.
    We welcome public comment on this notice and the proposed revisions 
to the SFCP program standards. If no substantive changes to the revised 
SFCP are deemed necessary by the APHIS Administrator, the revised SFCP 
program will come into effect 7 days after the close of the comment 
period for this notice. If substantive changes are deemed necessary, we 
will publish an additional document in the Federal Register to discuss 
them; otherwise, the final version of the revised SFCP program 
standards will be announced and made available on the APHIS Web site at 
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/scrapie/.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 29th day of April 2013.
 Kevin Shea,
 Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-10543 Filed 5-2-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P