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Commissioner Staples supports fever tick eradication program

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced his support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to invest more than $5 million in emergency funding to implement a fever tick eradication program.

“I am pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has responded to our state’s critical needs,” Commissioner Staples said. “The eradication program is essential to maintain a strong cattle industry. Texans are appreciative of this important partnership with the federal government.”

Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a tiny parasite that destroys red blood cells in cattle. This causes the disease, known as “cattle tick fever,” which can kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle, and it’s the reason the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) was created in 1893.

Although TAHC has permanently quarantined 852 square miles through eight south Texas counties to contain the pest, Texas is experiencing increased fever tick infestations, prompting the agency to impose additional temporary quarantines. The latest stretches across five Texas border counties – Starr, Zapata, Maverick, Dimmit and Webb – covering roughly 1,100 square miles. Without quarantines the ticks could spread throughout the nation, resulting in losses of $1 billion a year to the beef industry.

“I congratulate the Texas Animal Health Commission for its diligent work to defend Texas cattlemen against the harm this pest can do to their herds and ultimately the Texas economy,” Commissioner Staples said.

TAHC initially requested $13.3 million federal funds to stop the incursion of the fever tick in the formerly tick free areas. Although the actual $5 million allotment fell short of the requested amount, Commissioner Staples commended USDA for making this issue a priority.

“I personally thank Under Secretary Bruce Knight for his commitment to this issue and for touring the fever tick zone last week to get a first-hand view of the challenges our producers face in treating this pest.”

Additional funding will provide more people, surveillance, training and treatments to ensure the containment and early detection of new infestations. More mounted inspectors will patrol against livestock harboring ticks crossing into Texas from Mexico. Additional animal health technicians will control outbreaks and surveillance outside the permanent quarantine zone.

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