AUSTIN — Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) secured $110 million for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cattle health initiatives in the FY20 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. This an increase of $8.5 million from FY19 funding for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and $5 million for the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
Funding Research to Eradicate Cattle Fever Tick
ARS will receive $5 million for cattle fever tick critical research needs. Additionally, ARS has been directed to coordinate development of its long-term cattle fever tick research program with APHIS efforts under the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program. The increase of $8.5 million to APHIS will fund programs related to eradication of fever ticks for livestock and wildlife hosts, including, but not limited to research, data management, infrastructure, and treatment.
Cattle fever ticks are vectors of pathogens that cause Texas Cattle Fever, or bovine babesiosis, a highly fatal disease in naïve animals. There are no vaccines or drugs available to prevent or control the disease. Disease prevention is achieved by preventing contact with cattle fever ticks.
Recognizing the Urgency of Cost-share Programs for Quarantine Fencing
APHIS has been encouraged to use part of this funding for a cost-share program for the construction and repair of livestock or game quarantine fencing on private lands, to constrain the fever tick areas of expansion. USDA will work in conjunction with State Animal Health Commissions, to develop a strategy to exclude wildlife from areas at highest risk of tick spread and identify areas that qualify for funds within these areas.
The Quarantine zones serve as the buffer between Mexico, where ticks are endemic, and the rest of the fever tick-free United States, called the Free Area. Movement restrictions are a critical component in stopping the spread of the ticks to new areas. Fever tick quarantines require inspection of cattle on not only infested premises but also surrounding premises, providing surveillance. Lastly, fever tick quarantines also require systematic treatment of infested and exposed livestock and wildlife hosts, which results in the removal of ticks not only from the animals, but ultimately the environment.
“The disease the cattle fever tick carries is capable of devastating the cattle industry, a $67 billion business in the United States,” said Congressman Cuellar. “It is critical we invest in the well-being of our livestock to maintain economic stability for farmers and ranchers in South Texas and across our country. Since 2008, I have worked to provide funding to study cattle fever ticks and their eradication. The funds for the USDA-APHIS Cattle Health program this year are an important step in helping control the tick population and stop the spread of their disease.
“I would like to thank my fellow Appropriators, Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop and Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry for helping me secure these funds,” Congressman Cuellar added. “I want to also Chancellor John Sharp and Texas A&M on their critical research initiatives that will hopefully lead to the eradication of cattle fever tick. Additionally, I would like to thank the Texas Farm Bureau, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and the South Texans’ Property Rights Association for their consistent efforts to help highlight and battle this issue at the local, State, and Federal level for our Texas ranchers and cattle producers. Lastly, I want to thank my fellow South Texas Representatives, Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela, for their dedication to help Texas’s cattle industry.”
“Texas Farm Bureau appreciates Congressman Henry Cuellar for his continued work in providing critical funding for cattle fever tick control,” said Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening. “His steadfast support for hardworking ranching families being impacted by the fever tick does not go unnoticed. We thank Congressman Cuellar for being a leading champion for Texas agriculture.”
“Preventing and eradicating cattle fever ticks is a top animal health priority for NCBA. We appreciate Congressman Cuellar’s continued efforts to secure the resources USDA officials need to get the job done. This new funding will help cattle producers in Texas who work hard every day to feed the world,” stated Colin Woodall, senior vice president of government affairs, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Representative Cuellar’s persistence has paid off once again by securing funding for this important research,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “Beef cattle is a pillar to the South Texas economy. Investing in research to eradicate cattle tick fever and to fight a devastating disease that can take out your citrus crops is a wise investment in South Texas’ future.”
To see a summary of the FY20 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, click here.
To see Congressman Cuellar speak during the Appropriations Committee, click here.
–The Office of Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
For more articles out of Texas, click here.