The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced "split state status" for bovine tuberculosis in Minnesota, a move that's expected to help most of the state's cattle producers by lessening costly testing requirements.

Minnesota's bovine TB status was downgraded earlier this year after a new case of the highly contagious pulmonary disease surfaced in northwestern Minnesota. The downgrade meant all Minnesota cattle and bison producers moving animals across state lines had to follow stricter testing requirements.

The new TB plan restricts only parts of Roseau, Marshall, Lake of the Woods and Beltrami counties. Feeder cattle in the rest of the state can move across state lines without testing restrictions.

The new status comes at an important time for Minnesota's cattle industry, because many feeder cattle are moved to facilities in other states during the fall, said Joe Martin, assistant commissioner for the state Department of Agriculture.

An estimated 200,000 Minnesota cattle cross state lines each year.

"The split state (status) was important, but at the same time we're going to stand by these 300 producers" in northwestern Minnesota, Martin said. "It won't be a major economic hit to the state. However, there probably will be some pains felt by businesses in the northwest part of the state."

Bovine TB causes severe coughing, fatigue and debilitation in cattle, but the risk to humans is remote.

Producers in the "modified accredited" zone in northwestern Minnesota will still have to follow tighter shipping and testing requirements. They will also go through a wildlife evaluation to create a plan to prevent livestock from coming in contact with deer and other wildlife that could spread the disease.

In the rest of the state, breeding animals will still have to be tested within 60 days of moving across state lines. And as part of an agreement with the USDA, officials in Minnesota will test up to 1,500 herds across the state within the next 12 months, said state veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann. Tests on those herds will mostly be covered by state and federal dollars, he said.

TB testing costs $18-$26 per animal, so the costs can add up for producers that routinely move animals from a TB state to TB-free states. Cattle are often moved for fattening or for slaughter.

Most of the states that accept animals from Minnesota will recognize the new split status, including South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, Martin said. For now, North Dakota officials will leave in place restrictions on Minnesota cattle that have been in effect since February.

Wisconsin will keep treating the entire state of Minnesota the same as the isolated TB area, said Donna Gilson, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

"We've done the same thing with Michigan over the years. It's just that we're not confident of the ability to guard movement within the state to make sure something coming out of that zone isn't coming to Wisconsin via other routes," Gilson said.

Besides Michigan and Minnesota, California and New Mexico have had cases of bovine TB in recent years.

Dr. Sam Holland, South Dakota's state veterinarian, said Minnesota's new status will help South Dakota's cattle producers by making movement easier. "We recognize what Minnesota has done and we appreciate the efforts they have made," he said.