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February 26, 2016

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Chairman, Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski

Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Jerry Moran

Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Jeff Merkley

Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations

United State Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairs Cochran and Moran and Ranking Members Mikulski and Merkley:

The 204 undersigned organizations represent a broad range of food producers, wildlife organizations, sportsmen, local governments and resource interests that benefit from the cooperative efforts of the USDA-APHIS/Wildlife Services (WS) program. We write in strong support of sufficient funding for the two line items for the WS program (WS Damage Management and WS Methods Development) and in opposition to any effort to restrict or eliminate WS funding.

Wildlife causes more than $12.8 billion in damage each year to natural resources, public infrastructures, private property and agriculture. WS works to prevent, minimize or manage this damage and to protect human health and safety from conflicts with wildlife. Wildlife damage to U.S. livestock, aquaculture, small grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products has been estimated to reach nearly $1 billion annually. Wildlife predators cause more than $137 million in death loss to livestock; field crop losses due to wildlife total $619 million annually; losses to vegetables, fruits and nuts total $146 million annually; and 70 percent of catfish farmers incur wildlife-related damage resulting in losses of $10 million to $13 million annually from double-crested cormorants in Mississippi alone. As a result, WS is an essential program to U.S. agriculture.

The spread of wildlife-borne diseases to humans, livestock and other wildlife is a growing concern. WS monitors and manages pests and diseases in the United States. WS is often the first line of defense in reducing and eliminating diseases such as the West Nile virus, avian influenza, pandemic H1N1, chronic wasting disease, pseudo rabies, bubonic plague, Hantavirus, Lyme disease, bovine tuberculosis and rabies. In fact, rabies-associated costs range from $300 million to $450 million annually in the United States primarily for pet vaccinations, education, diagnostics, post-exposure treatment and case investigations. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, WS collected 49,391 samples (sampling for 46 separate diseases/conditions) in their efforts to combat and eradicate wildlife disease. WS also prevents entry of and controls invasive species such as feral swine, nutria, the brown tree snake, and the European starling. Feral swine are a subject of increasing concern as potential carriers or catalysts for a variety of diseases. It is estimated that there are more than 6 million feral swine in at least 38 states that cause greater than $1.5 billion in damage annually with more than $800 million of damage to agriculture resources.

In FY2014 alone, WS conducted 66,293 technical assistance projects (an 8.37% increase over FY 2013 figures) to reduce wildlife damage to property in urban, suburban and rural locations across the country, which include homes, schools, industrial facilities, roads, bridges, airports and airport runways, dams and electrical and water systems. One example of this work is WS efforts in reducing deer collisions with automobiles. More than 1.2 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, injuring tens of thousands of people and causing more than $4 billion in damage. In addition, WS works to protect wetlands habitat, riparian habitat, tidal marsh and timber from a variety of pest species including feral hogs and nutria, as well as the destruction that beaver can cause.  WS expended more than $18.8 million to protect property from wildlife damage in FY2014, up from $16.1 million in 2008.

Protection of natural resources is a growing need for WS. Last year, WS invested resources in conservation of game species including mule deer, bighorn sheep, antelope and waterfowl in eight states. Also in FY2014, WS spent $6.3 million for cooperative work with federal and state agencies to protect and assist 162 threatened or endangered species in 35 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In more than 95 percent of the projects, local threatened and endangered species either increased or remained stable.

More than 140,000 wildlife strikes with civil aviation have been reported since WS began keeping records in 1990. In FY 2015, there were more than 13,650 wildlife collisions with civil aircraft reported, with an additional 6,300 strikes reported by military aviation costing the total aviation industry more than $4.6 billion since 1990. WS provided direct services at 406 airports in FY2015 including population management through harassment, habitat modification or removal. Technical assistance, such as initial consultations and wildlife hazard assessments, was provided at 836 airports across the country. Through the process, WS trained more than 4,400 non-WS personnel at 376 airports to prevent or minimize the impact of wildlife strikes.

As the “Miracle on the Hudson” demonstrated in 2009, the management of wildlife hazards on and near our nation’s airports is a critical safety priority. WS provides valuable support to the aviation community in addressing these hazards. From its assistance in preparing FAA-required wildlife hazard assessments to its help with managing hazardous wildlife populations, WS staff ensure that U.S. airports both meet the regulatory obligations under 14 CFR Part 139 and reduce the safety risks associated with aircraft wildlife strikes. WS also assists the FAA in monitoring national trends regarding wildlife populations and the hazards they pose to aviation. At a time when airports are facing significantly expanded wildlife hazard management requirements through recently issued FAA Advisory Circulars and grant assurance modifications, its role will be even more critical to the aviation community going forward.

It has been WS's cooperative nature that has allowed it to accomplish all of the above listed programs and has made it the most cost effective and efficient program in the federal government in the areas of wildlife damage management and public health and safety. In FY 2014, WS had more than 3,300 cooperative agreements.WS cooperators include agriculture, forestry, private industry, state wildlife agencies, state departments of health, state departments of agriculture, schools, universities, counties, local governments, Indian nations, homeowner associations, conservation groups and others that, together with WS, mitigate the damage and dangers that public wildlife can inflict.

Chairs Cochran and Moran and Ranking Members Mikulski and Merkley, we appreciate your demonstrated leadership and strong support of this essential program. Our organizations are committed to working with you to strengthen WS resources and to ensure a continued federal partnership in the responsible management of our nation’s wildlife. 

Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l Airlines for America Alabama Catfish Producers Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Alabama Farmers Federation Alabama Meat Goat and Sheep Producers American Association of Airport Executives American Beekeeping Federation American Dairy Goat Association American Farm Bureau Federation American Feed Industry Association American Goat Federation American Horse Council American Sheep Industry Association American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers American Veterinary Medical Association Animal Health Institute Arizona Cattle Feeders Association Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Arizona Cattlemen's Association Arizona Wool Producers Association Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association Arkansas State Sheep Council Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Association of National Grasslands Association of Oregon Counties Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts Big Game Forever California Cattlemen's Association California Farm Bureau Federation California Wool Growers Association Catfish Farmers of America Catfish Institute Colorado Cattlemen's Association Colorado Wool Growers Association Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association, Inc Delta Council Eastern Regional Conference of the Council of State Governments Empire Sheep Producers Florida Aquaculture Association Florida Cattlemen’s Association Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association Fur Industries of North America Garden State Sheep Breeders Inc Georgia Agribusiness Council Inc Georgia Cattlemen's Association Georgia Sheep and Wool Growers Association Hawaii Sheep and Goat Association Idaho Cattle Association Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association Idaho Wool Growers Association Illinois Beef Association Illinois Lamb and Wool Producers Inc Independent Beef Association of North Dakota Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas Indiana Sheep Association Iowa Cattlemen's Association Iowa Sheep Industry Association Kansas Livestock Association Kansas Sheep Association Kentucky Aquaculture Association Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Kentucky Sheep and Wool Producers Association Livestock Marketing Association Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association Maine Sheep Breeders Association Maryland Sheep Breeders Association Massachusetts Federation of Sheep Associations Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida, Inc Michigan Sheep Producers Association Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producer Association Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association Missouri Cattlemen's Association Missouri Sheep Producers, Inc Mohair Council of America Montana Association of State Grazing Districts Montana Farm Bureau Federation Montana Public Lands Council Montana Stockgrowers Association Montana Wool Growers Association Mule Deer Foundation National Aquaculture Association National Association of Counties National Association of Federal Veterinarians National Association of State Departments of Agriculture National Cattlemen's Beef Association National Farmers Union National Lamb Feeders Association National Milk Producers Federation National Pork Producers Council National Renderers Association National Rifle Association National Shooting Sports Foundation National Sorghum Producers National Sunflower Association National Women Involved in Farm Economics Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc. Nebraska Farmers Union

Nebraska Sheep and Goat Producers Nebraska State Grange Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics Nevada Cattlemen's Association Nevada Department of Agriculture Nevada Farm Bureau Federation Nevada Rangeland Resources Commission Nevada State Grazing Board Central Committee Nevada Wool Growers Association New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Growers Association New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association New Mexico Department of Agriculture New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau New Mexico Federal Lands Council New Mexico Trappers Association New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc North American Meat Institute North Carolina Sheep Producers Association North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers Association North Dakota Stockmen's Association North Dakota Department of Agriculture North Dakota Game and Fish Department Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship Ohio Cattlemen's Association Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Ohio Sheep Improvement Association Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association Oregon Cattlemen's Association Oregon Dairy Farmers Association Oregon Farm Bureau Federation Oregon Forest Industries Council Oregon Outdoor Council Oregon Seed Council Oregon Sheep Growers Association Oregon Small Woodlands Association Oregonians for Food & Shelter Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association Public Lands Council R-CALF USA Rhode Island Sheep Cooperative Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Rural and Agriculture Council of America Safari Club International Society for Range Management South Carolina Sheep Industries Association South Dakota Cattlemen's Association South Dakota Sheep Growers Association South East Dairy Farmers Association Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Idaho Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association Striped Bass Growers Association Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association Tennessee Sheep Producers Association Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Texas Cattle Feeders Association Texas Farm Bureau Texas Pork Producers Association Texas Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association Texas Wildlife Damage Management Association The Council of State Governments – Midwest The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey United Dairymen of Arizona United States Animal Health Association U.S. Cattlemen's Association USA Rice Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Utah Farm Bureau Federation Utah Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Utah Wildlife Board Utah Wool Growers Association Vermont Sheep and Goat Association Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Virginia Cattlemen’s Association Virginia Sheep Producers Association Wasco County Livestock Association Washington Cattlemen's Association Washington Cattle Feeders Association Washington Forest Protection Association Washington State Sheep Producers West Virginia Cattlemen's Association West Virginia Farm Bureau West Virginia Shepherds Federation Western United Dairymen Wild Sheep Foundation Wildlife Management InstituteUtah Cattlemen's Association Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Wisconsin Firearms Owners, Ranges, Club and Educators Wisconsin Sheep Breeders Cooperative Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Wyoming Game and Fish Department Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife Wyoming Stock Growers Association Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation Wyoming Wool Growers Association

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