With the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) fiasco in England in mind, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura signed into law a bill giving the Minnesota Board of Animal Health greater leeway in reacting to a disease outbreak.

The law authorizes the governor to declare an emergency if there is an animal disease outbreak of "potentially disastrous proportions." The law is aimed at giving state officials the ability to contain an outbreak before it spreads around the state, says Tom Hagerty, state veterinarian.

"With a virus that spreads as easily as FMD, you don’t have time to ask questions about who’s going to do what and what authority they have to do it," says Hagerty. "You need to have a system in place to respond immediately – otherwise you might be looking at 50 infected herds instead of five."

"Watching what has happened in England, we’ve all seen what can happen when a major livestock disease isn’t recognized and contained swiftly," adds Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Gene Hugoson. "First and foremost, our goal is to keep FMD out of the state. But if it does reach Minnesota, we now have a greater ability to respond."

The new law provides more authority to quarantine and kill diseased animals by controlling people movement, vehicles and machinery within a strictly limited control zone up to a three-mile radius from an infected herd.

Information is also on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Web site at www.mda.state.mn.us.