The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated an additional $500,000 in conservation financial assistance to help stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in northern Michigan. This third allocation raises the total amount of NRCS financial assistance for combating TB in Michigan to $1.5 million for the fiscal year 2011.
"Livestock farmers in northeast Michigan have been challenged over the years to implement costly precautionary measures to separate their healthy livestock herds from TB-infected wildlife," says Michigan Farm Bureau livestock and dairy specialist Ernie Birchmeier."This funding will help the livestock farmers in Michigan's highest-risk TB counties minimize and/or eradicate the disease's spread."
The assistance is provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and is available to eligible livestock farmers in an 11-county region where TB remains a high risk. The counties are: Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Crawford, Emmet, Montmorency, Presque Isle, Oscoda and Otsego.
TB is believed to be spread to livestock by wild deer through direct contact or from contaminated food or water. Financial assistance from USDA NRCS can be used by livestock farmers to implement practices to keep deer away from livestock and the forage and water that livestock use. Examples of practices eligible for financial assistance include fencing, special watering facilities and forage harvest management.
"Bovine TB has dealt a serious blow to Michigan producers and has led to severe economic consequences for the state," says Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. "This is why I've been working closely with Michigan producers and the Department of Agriculture to make sure the disease doesn't cripple our cattle industry and to make sure that our farmers can focus on important things like growing their businesses, creating jobs and boosting Michigan's economy.
"As we all know, agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry and supports one out of every four jobs. It's critical that we take measures to protect and strengthen the industry."
MFB appreciates Stabenow's leadership in helping to secure this additional infusion of targeted money, says MFB national legislative counsel Ryan Findlay.
"So often we see farmers burdened by excessive regulation and bureaucratic requirements, but here's an example where the federal government is extending a helping hand to assist farmers in combating a disease that is out of their control and threatens their faming livelihood," says Findlay.
The initial sign-up period for the first allocation of EQIP funding (May 2-31) generated an influx of applications. So the second and this third allocation will go toward funding existing applications.
MFB hopes USDA's attention to EQUIP funding for northern Michigan is a sign that the agency is moving forward on finalizing a plan that would shrink the high-risk TB area to only four counties - Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda - thus further zeroing in the state's TB eradication efforts and alleviating more farmers of costly and burdensome TB herd testing and cattle movement restrictions.
"Farmers in northern Michigan have stepped up and worked diligently to implement mandated wildlife risk mitigation plans, often times using cost-share assistance as provided by EQIP," says Birchmeier. "It's time USDA take the next step and implement the proposed changes to Michigan's TB-free status as originally anticipated to take effect this summer."