Last week, Congressman Henry Cuellar 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.
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.
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.