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Producers push for more livestock protection funds

Capital Press — Seattle, Oregon

Sheep, cattle growers want more help from Congress

By Dave Wilkins

A coalition of sheep and cattle producers wants Congress to boost funding for livestock protection programs.

The coalition, led by the American Sheep Industry Association, recently sent a letter to leaders of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies in both houses, urging them to support an increase in 2009 appropriations for livestock protection programs administered by USDA’s Wildlife Services agency.

Nationwide, more than 250,000 sheep and nearly 150,000 cattle are lost to predators each year, according to the ASIA.

More than 80 organizations, including sheep and cattle associations, wildlife management groups and state government entities, support an increase in Wildlife Services funding.

Predator control costs are a major factor behind rising production costs, according to livestock groups.

"Without additional federal funding to support existing livestock protection programs, predation management expertise will be lost and livestock grazing in some areas will be jeopardized," ASI leaders said in an online newsletter distributed last week.

The proposed increase in funding will help producers, state and county governments and Wildlife Services better control predators, ASI leaders said.

More than 28,000 head of sheep and lambs valued at $2.7 million were lost to predators in Idaho and Montana last year, according to surveys conducted by the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Idaho sheep producers lost 11,200 head of sheep and lambs valued at $1.54 million last year. Coyotes did the most damage, taking 7,200 head of sheep and lambs. Bears claimed 700 head, dogs 600 head, wolves 500 head and cougars 400 head, the agency reported last week.

Montana producers lost 17,000 head of sheep and lambs to predators in 2007, according to the NASS survey.

Lamb losses alone amounted to 13,900 head, up 21 percent from 2006.

Coyotes remained the biggest problem for producers in Montana, accounting for 69 percent of all sheep and lambs lost to predators in 2007.