Congressman Cuellar Helps Deliver $91.5 Million for USDA Cattle Health Program

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Texas Border Business

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced the inclusion of $91.5 million which he helped secure in the Fiscal Year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Cattle Health Program; funding that is used in part to help fight the spread of cattle fever ticks.

The U.S. cattle industry is valued at roughly $81 billion. Cattle fever ticks carry microscopic parasites that cause anemia, fever, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and often death for up to 90 percent of infected cattle. Along the Rio Grande, there is a Permanent Cattle Fever Tick Quarantine Zone, an area that spans eight Texas counties on the border and over a half million acres stretching from the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville to Amistad Dam north of Del Rio, intended to prevent the spread of the often deadly tick-borne disease. However, infestations have been reported elsewhere in Central and South Texas as well.

“Our cattle producers contribute greatly to the economy and way of life in South Texas. They deserve our assistance in the face of threats to their vitality,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Fighting these ticks has been an uphill and ongoing battle since 2008 when I included language in the Farm Bill for the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program that provided research grants 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.

The FY18 funding is level to the funding included in last year’s FY17 funding bill.  In an austere budget environment in which the President has planned cuts to nearly every federal non-defense program, this level funding is a big win for the cattle industry. In FY17 USDA allocated $12.2 million from this account to fight the ticks in areas like Starr, Zapata, and Webb Counties. Congressman Cuellar also included language calling on USDA-APHIS to report to the Committee on their plan to help eradicate the ticks and control their spread.

“We can’t thank Congressman Cuellar enough for his leadership in preserving funding for fever tick eradication, especially in these times of severe cuts in other parts of the federal budget “, said Susan Kibbe, executive director of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association.  “South Texas ranchers are losing ground against the fever tick as it is and level funding is critical to prevent wide-spread devastation in the cattle industry, both here and in other parts of the state and the country. We are very fortunate that Congressman Cuellar has the knowledge and the will to address the situation.”

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“Our thanks to Congressman Henry Cuellar for recognizing the threat the fever tick poses to animal agriculture in Texas, especially the southern regions,” said Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening. “The congressman has taken action to contain this threat. The leadership of South Texas Congressmen Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez has also been invaluable in this effort.”

“I thank Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt and Ranking Member Sanford Bishop for their leadership and assistance on this issue along with fellow South Texas Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela,” Congressman Cuellar added. “I also want to thank the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers 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.”

The FY18 Agriculture Appropriations bill is one of twelve annual appropriations bills the Congress uses to fund the federal government each fiscal year. This bill passed the House Appropriations Committee today and now awaits action by the full House of Representatives before being sent to the Senate and on to the President. Congressman Cuellar is a member of the Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over drafting these bills.