YOUR comments needed by Friday

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has proposed a rule that would grant the Department new regulatory authority over the use of Co-Ral® Flowable Insecticide in the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program. This would introduce a new government agency to a long list of state and federal bureaucracies who regulate and administer cattle fever tick eradication strategies. The cattle industry has already suffered from disagreement among government agencies currently involved with the program. This proposal would only worsen the problem.  

When regulators disagree, cattle fever tick eradication efforts are often stopped, negating the tireless work of affected cattle producers and facilitating the spread of cattle fever ticks into new areas. This poses a significant cattle health threat to the United States and could have detrimental effects on the U.S. cattle market, beef supply, international trade and the financial sustainability of affected cattle producers.

Comments on the proposed rule may be submitted to Philip Wright via e-mail at RuleComments@TexasAgriculture.gov. Comments must be received by TDA no later than this Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Please take a few minutes to submit the comments provided below. They can easily be personalized and copied into the body of an e-mail to be sent to TDA. Your input is critically important.


November 30, 2018

Mr. Philip Wright
Administrator for Agriculture and Consumer Protection
Texas Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 12847
Austin, Texas 78711

Submitted via electronic mail to rulecomments@texasagriculture.gov

RE: Texas Department of Agriculture’s proposed amendment to Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7 of the Texas Administrative Code

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) proposed amendment to Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7 of the Texas Administrative Code pertaining to the use and application of pesticides.

Rhipicephalus annulatus and Rhipicephalus microplus, jointly referred to as cattle fever ticks, pose a significant cattle health threat to the United States and could have detrimental effects on the cattle market, beef supply and trade if not controlled. Cattle fever ticks serve as vectors for babesiosis, a protozoan disease that destroys red blood cells, which causes death in 90% of naïve cattle. Unfortunately, there still is not any known treatment for the disease. Since 1906, the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) has mitigated the impact and occurrence of babesiosis by implementing eradication efforts against cattle fever ticks.

The Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program is jointly administered by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The governing rules for the program are located in Title 4, Part 2, Chapter 41 of the Texas Administrative Code.

Affected producers are legally required to comply with all CFTEP rules. Livestock producers must also provide labor for and bear the expense of gathering and presenting all livestock for scratch inspections, treatments and vaccinations prescribed by the program. These activities must be administered by USDA-APHIS or TAHC officials to be in compliance with program rules. The general public is not allowed to purchase coumaphos with an active ingredient of 42% by weight, even if they have a pesticide applicator license. The only currently available product containing coumaphos with this level of active ingredient is Co-Ral® Flowable Insecticide (Co-Ral®), which is formulated and produced solely for application by USDA-APHIS and TAHC officials as prescribed by CFTEP.

When livestock are required to be treated with Co-Ral® by CFTEP, the animals “shall” be submerged in a dipping vat with three exceptions:

1)    Careful hand spraying may be used for easily restrained horses and show cattle, and when specifically authorized by a USDA-APHIS or TAHC official, certain zoo or domestic animals

2)    Livestock unable to go through a dipping vat because of size or physical condition, as determined by a USDA-APHIS or TAHC official, may be hand sprayed

3)    A spray-dip machine may be used in areas where a vat is not reasonably available

Cattle fever ticks were eradicated from the United States by 1943, except in the Permanent Quarantine Zone (PQZ) in South Texas that extends more than 500 miles from Del Rio, Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. In recent years, eradicating cattle fever ticks from the landscape has become increasingly difficult. This is primarily due to changes in land use, increased white-tailed deer and nilgai populations, and climatic cycles that favor cattle fever tick expansion. The cumulative impact of these factors is evident by the 2,779 premises, encompassing over 1 million acres, that are currently under some level of cattle fever tick quarantine. 2,258 of these premises, which account for 807,699 acres, are outside the PQZ. An overwhelming majority of quarantines outside the PQZ and a portion of quarantines in the PQZ are “in areas where a vat is not reasonably available.”

Cattle producers who do not have reasonable access to a dipping vat are reliant upon the use of spray-dip machines to keep cattle in quarantined areas. This is incredibly important for the financial sustainability of affected producers but is also imperative to the entire U.S. cattle industry. If cattle are removed from an infested pasture, cattle fever ticks will continue to spread via white-tailed deer, nilgai and other suitable wildlife hosts. Treating cattle is the only cattle fever tick eradication tool that can be used year-round to effectively eradicate ticks. Removing cattle from infested pastures where wildlife reside greatly increases the health risk to the entire U.S. cattle herd, jeopardizes the U.S. cattle market, threatens the United States’ secure beef supply and international trade.

TDA’s concerns, which prompted the proposed addition of §7.41to Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7 of the Texas Administrative Code, are with the application of Co-Ral® with a spray-dip machine and whether that method of application is in accordance with the product label. The proposed rule states: “Products containing coumaphos, with an active ingredient of 42% by weight, which is approved for use on beef or non-lactating dairy cattle or horses, to control horn flies, lice, ticks and screwworms, must be applied in a ventilated area.” No concerns have been raised by TDA over the application of Co-Ral® via dipping vat or hand sprayer.

The label for Co-Ral® already declares under the “Application Restrictions” section of the product label that Co-Ral® is not to be sprayed in confined, non-ventilated areas. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interprets the restriction on spraying Co-Ral® in confined, non-ventilated areas as applying to the applicator during application to help prevent organophosphate poisoning. The EPA interpreted the label this way when Co-Ral® was registered and during three subsequent registration reviews. For 40 years, USDA-APHIS and TAHC have applied Co-Ral® in spray-dip machines. EPA has always considered that method of application to be in accordance with the label. TDA is the only agency that interprets the label as requiring ventilation for the animal receiving treatment. Additionally, TDA did not adopt that interpretation until four months ago. No recent changes have been made to Co-Ral® or spray-dip machines to prompt this change in interpretation. TDA cited a concern over recent cattle deaths as the primary motivation for the rule proposal, but no cattle have ever died due to toxicity during or after being treated with Co-Ral® in a spray-dip machine.

TDA’s interpretation of ventilation has already jeopardized cattle producers’ progress in eradicating cattle fever ticks and has had detrimental effects on some affected producers. The disagreement between TDA and EPA, USDA-APHIS and TAHC over the applicability of ventilation caused all spray-dip machines to be locked down for two weeks. Producers that had cattle scheduled for treatment could not comply with CFTEP requirements because spray-dip machines could not be utilized and they did not have access to a dipping vat. This was incredibly harmful to those producers and the health of their cattle, but it also posed a significant threat to the entire U.S. cattle industry. It proved that introducing more bureaucracy and creating more governmental regulation on an already heavily regulated program is devastating to the cattle industry, animal health and individuals raising livestock.

TDA’s proposed rule is unnecessary and duplicative because the product label already requires USDA-APHIS and TAHC to apply Co-Ral® in a well-ventilated area. Though the applicability of ventilation is disputed by TDA, the proposed rule language is even less specific than the label. This creates more uncertainty and puts Texas cattle producers and the entire U.S. cattle industry at a much greater risk of having spray-dip machines taken out of service due to disagreement between governmental bureaucracies.

The proposed addition of §7.41 to Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 7 of the Texas Administrative Code threatens the U.S. cattle market, beef supply, international trade, livestock health and the financial sustainability of affected producers. I adamantly oppose the adoption of this proposed rule and the introduction of additional governmental regulations that jeopardize the ability of livestock producers to protect the health of their animals and comply with the law.

Sincerely,
____________________________________


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