June 2005 -- With well over 250,000 sheep and lambs lost to predators each year, the Wildlife Services (WS) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is vital to the economic survival of the sheep industry. This is a statement made by American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) President Paul Frischknecht, in his testimony to both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives appropriations subcommittees for agriculture.
The value of sheep and lambs lost to predators and predator-control expenses are second only to feed costs for sheep production. Costs associated with depredation currently exceed the industry's veterinary, labor and transportation costs.
Changing societal values, reflected in changes in federal and state laws and regulations, have made it more difficult for livestock producers to implement their own predation-management programs. As a result, governmental programs must assume more of this responsibility. The federal agency with statutory authority to cooperate with other entities in programs designed to mitigate wildlife damage is the WS program.
WS cooperative nature has made it the most cost-effective and efficient program within the federal government, in the areas of wildlife management and public health and safety. WS has more than 2,000 cooperative agreements with agriculture, forestry groups, private industry, state game and fish departments, departments of health, schools and county and local governments to mitigate the damage and danger that the public's wildlife can inflict on private property and public health and safety.
Economics of Predation Management
?An analysis of 1998 data shows that for every dollar spent for predation management, $3 worth of livestock was saved. When you put that in today?s values for livestock, every federal dollar spent on predation management results in $10.84 in livestock saved, conservatively, that is $97.5 million in livestock saved,? comments Frischknecht.
Once cooperative funding is included with federal funds, the benefit-cost ratio is $4.87-to-$1. In addition, the value of livestock saved is much greater in rural economies than any other type of economic development. Livestock dollars, that would have been lost without adequate predation management, generates an additional three-fold increase in non-agricultural economic activity in rural America. The total economic activity ? both agriculture and non-agriculture sectors ? generated by predation management is $390.2 million.
Additional issues are emerging in the West that will challenge the federal WS program.
Without additional federal funding to support existing western livestock protection programs, predation management expertise will be lost and livestock grazing in some areas will be jeopardized.
ASI strongly supports the FY 2005 appropriations for WS operations and methods development programs, particularly as related to livestock protection. The industry requests the committee to restore the funding levels that have been decreased in the Administration?s FY 2006 budget and approve an increase to the regional livestock-protection program of WS operations of $9 million.
?Without additional funding to support livestock protection programs, predation-management expertise will be lost and livestock grazing in some areas will be jeopardized,? concludes Frischknecht.