USDA helps eradicate harmful fever tick in south Texas
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is pleased to announce the U.S. Department of Agriculture is committing $4.9 million in emergency funds to help control a growing fever tick infestation in South Texas.
"I am grateful President Bush and his administration understand the need to control this potentially devastating pest and have secured funding to help Texas achieve this goal," Commissioner Staples said. "Texas is prepared, with the leadership of the Texas Animal Health Commission and many other state and federal partners, to eradicate the fever tick and protect our American and Texas cattle industries."
To apply the help, USDA will transfer $4.9 million in emergency Commodity Credit Corporation funding within USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to support the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program.
Commissioner Staples was joined by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, Congressman Henry Cuellar, State Representatives Ryan Guillen and Sid Miller, Texas' State Veterinarian and TAHC Executive Director Dr. Bob Hillman and other agriculture industry leaders for the announcement in Laredo.
"The USDA is putting emergency money at work dedicated directly to Texas tick eradication," Secretary Schafer said. "Our commitment spans more than a century to ensure the health of U.S. cattle and we keep a close watch on the herd. Raising cattle is a valued way of life and a key part of the Texas agricultural economy."
"This additional funding will help provide personnel, equipment and supplies to continue the fight to control the current outbreak of the fever ticks, which has encroached into Webb, Dimmit, Maverick, Zapata and Starr counties," Dr. Hillman said. "Currently, more than 100 ranches are quarantined in Texas, due to the dangerous tick. The TAHC and USDA had requested over $15 million in funding for a two-year effort to contain and eradicate the fever tick outbreak. We are highly appreciative for this additional $4.9 million as it will enable our agencies to continue control and eradication efforts, and we will continue our efforts to secure all the resources necessary to complete the job that must be done."
Dr. Hillman noted that failure to eradicate the fever tick in South Texas could lead to further spread of the pest, which historically reached coast-to-coast and as far north as Washington, D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania.
"Fever ticks are not a Texas issue," Hillman said. "They are a foreign pest and a national livestock health threat."
Commissioner Staples vowed to continue to advocate for resources that will benefit Texas agricultural producers.
"Cattlemen from across America know the consequences of not taking strong action," Commissioner Staples said. "I look forward to continuing a partnership with Congressman Cuellar and the new administration on future eradication efforts."
Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a parasite that destroys red blood cells in cattle, causing "cattle tick fever," which can kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle. The TAHC was established in 1893 to eradicate the fever tick pest and eliminate cattle tick fever in Texas.
USDA established the National Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program in 1907. Before the nationwide eradication program began, direct and indirect economic losses were estimated to be $130.5 million (which would be approximately $1 billion today).
Although the fever tick has been eradicated from all of the U.S. except for the permanent quarantine zone, which extends 200 yards to six miles wide from Del Rio to Brownsville and adjacent areas in the state of Texas, the fever ticks and cattle tick fever still exist in Mexico. USDA manages the fever tick quarantine zone.