In a victory for the cattle industry, the federal government will allocate $4.9 million for the control of cattle fever ticks in Texas.

United States Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer made the announcement Jan. 12 after recent meetings with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, members of Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and other industry leaders.

“This funding couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Jon Means, president of the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, in a press release. “Now, maybe more than ever, federal funding for the control of fever ticks is desperately needed in order to address the current infestation in the temporary quarantine zones.”

Means said without the new funds, cattle ticks could spread the fever throughout the nation’s cow herd, resulting in losses of $1 billion a year to the beef industry and rising food costs for consumers.

Fever ticks can carry and transmit a tiny parasite that causes “cattle tick fever,” a disease that can kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle. The ticks once extended across the southeastern United States from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast and into Texas and Oklahoma.

The Texas Animal Health Commission was established in 1893 to fight the disease. Since 1943, cattle tick fever has been eradicated nationwide, except for a permanent quarantine zone, maintained by the USDA and the TAHD, which was established along the Rio Grande in South Texas.

Since July 2007, five preventive quarantines have been established and/or enlarged in Maverick, Dimmit, Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg and Star counties. More than 1 million acres in South Texas currently are under temporary preventive quarantines, in addition to the half-million acres that comprise the permanent quarantine zone.

Means said more work needs to be done to combat the current fever tick crisis.

“We will work with federal and state government officials including the new White House Administration to ensure America’s beef supply is kept affordable, safe and secure for America’s families.”