Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to immediately review the Department’s funding priorities for the aerial program that protects ranchers across South Dakota from livestock damage. A lack of federal funding dedicated to continuing this program in the state through the current Fiscal Year could lead to fewer flights and further strain state and producer resources.
“I’ve routinely secured federal funding for this program, which combines with efforts at the state level to protect producers from livestock damage. The ban on earmarks demanded by the minority in Congress means that I was prevented from securing funds dedicated solely to continuing this program in South Dakota. I want the Ag Secretary to take a hard look at the value of this program in our state as we fight for our share of agency funds to continue these flights,” said Johnson.
Johnson, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, has worked to secure nearly $5 million in federally-directed spending for this program over the years. The program allows for aerial hunts of predators to livestock.
The two-year moratorium on Congressionally-directed spending demanded by the minority in the Senate means that federal agencies in Washington are now responsible for allocating funds for this program.
“Ending the federal commitment to this program could further strain state programs and impact producers. This is exactly the type of program that has real value in our state, but could go under-funded by federal bureaucrats in Washington,” continued Johnson.
A copy of the letter is below
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
I write in regards to funding available through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services program. It has come to my attention that the APHIS Wildlife Services program will cease predator control activities in South Dakota due to limited availability of funding.
As you know, a cooperative program has been developed between the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks and APHIS Wildlife Services for the purpose of ensuring adequate resources are available to respond to, and mitigate, livestock losses and damage to crops and other property caused by wild animals. This is a critically important program for livestock producers in South Dakota. Particularly given the difficult economic conditions the states are facing, the federal share of this program is absolutely essential in order to cover the expenses associated with the program.
Over the years, I have worked to secure nearly $5 million in federally-directed spending for this program. It is because of the importance of programs like this to rural America that I have long supported the earmarking process; unfortunately, a misguided notion that eliminating earmarks will reduce the deficit has led to a two-year moratorium on Congressionally-directed spending.
I understand that given the elimination of Wildlife Services earmarks in the current Continuing Resolution, APHIS has limited funding to distribute to the states with which you have cooperative agreements. I certainly understand the difficulties associated with ensuring the states receive adequate resources given your limitations; however, I respectfully request an immediate review of funding allocations and assurances from your office that South Dakota will be treated equally in the manner in which available funding is dispersed.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
United States Senate