Exercise Roving Sands
Editor's note: The following email was received from Carla Everett, Texas Animal Health Commission.

You may have questions regarding the upcoming military exercise dubbed "Roving Sands," which is to involve participants from several European countries. We are forwarding highlights from a meeting held Wednesday, May 9, that included representatives of USDA-PPQ (Plant Protection and Quarantine), Department of Defense (DOD), Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). A second meeting was held between USDA-PPQ, DOD, TAHC, and members of the Texas Agriculture Council (comprised of Texas agriculture associations).

Meeting highlights:

*Provided explanation of pre-clearance activities and post movement procedures for both equipment and personnel arriving to participate in the exercise.

*Heard public concerns; and answered specific questions about the procedures in place to prevent the introduction of disease into the US.

The following information was provided by the USDA for additional background.

Exercise Roving Sands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to be vigilant in its efforts to prevent the introduction of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) into the United States. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with the U.S. military on Exercise Roving Sands, an annual military exercise involving international participants. Military personnel and equipment from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany are headed to Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico to attend the U.S. exercise June 15-24.

Because of active FMD outbreaks in the United Kingdom and the European Union, USDA is requiring that these three regions comply with stringent agricultural safeguards to protect against the introduction of FMD. USDA allows the importation of military equipment from countries affected by FMD, but only after they have been thoroughly cleaned and inspected. USDA will not accept any equipment that has been used in the control or clean up of FMD outbreaks.

While Germany has not suffered from an FMD outbreak, the country is subject to the same strict entry requirements as countries currently affected by the disease because it is part of theEuropean Union. U.S. military customs inspectors and APHIS personnel have already precleared Germany's equipment for the exercise, and the equipment is currently enroute to the United States.

U.S. military customs inspectors and APHIS personnel will be in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom monitoring the cleaning and inspection of all equipment from those regions scheduled to participate in the Exercise Roving Sands activities. The equipment will also be disinfected.

Equipment from all three regions will be reinspected upon arrival in the United States. Any equipment that does not meet APHIS' cleanliness standards will be refused entry and returned to the ship. All personnel and their baggage will be subject to inspection before their departure and again upon arrival in the United States to protect against the threat of FMD.

USDA takes every precaution, including inspections, use of canine teams, and x-rays, to ensure that military equipment from foreign countries meets all required safeguards.

For more information about FMD, visit the USDA website at www.usda.gov. For recorded traveler information call 1-866-safguard.