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APHIS reports on ag losses due to predators

Native predatory wildlife performs a vital role in a healthy ecosystem.  However, predatory animals also cause damage or pose a threat to resources, including threats to people.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released the latest comprehensive environmental assessment (EA) of mammal predation last month, outlining the extent of the problem by geographic region and the impact of both traditional and alternative methods of dealing with predation as it relates to agriculture, according to Southwest Farm Press.

Cattle and calf losses due to predators in Texas was valued at over $18 million in 2005 and at over $19.4 million in 2010.  These losses are chiefly caused by coyotes, at 47 percent, but others predators include dogs, bobcats, mountain lions and foxes.

To review the final EA and the traditional and alternative methods of action being considered to address predation problems in select regions of Texas, visit this link.

Drought continues to linger and gives the gift of consequences

Texas has received rain, but drought is still an issue as 35 percent of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought status, reports Drovers CattleNetwork.

“By 2060, Texas will be short 8.3 million acre feet of water if current water plan goals are not met,” said Carlos Rubinstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board.

Rubinstein said “there’s no magic bullet” to solving Texas’ future water needs, but the agency does have dedicated financing to fund local water projects, something that wasn’t available in the past. The funding is a result of Texas voters passing an amendment last year authorizing $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT).

“Economic losses have been staggering to Texas agriculture,” said Dr. Travis Miller, interim director for state operations for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. The 2011 drought led to $7.6 billion in agricultural losses, which were on top of $3.6 billion in losses in 2009 and $4.1 billion in 2006. In 1998, drought losses were estimated at $2.4 billion.
Hardest hit has been Texas’ beef cattle industry, Miller said. Texas beef cow numbers were 5.35 million head in 2005. In 2014, that number was cut to 3.91 million head.

Ecosystem services conference held

Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “A Community on Ecosystem Services” (ACES) Conference to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders who spoke at the ACES conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.

Weller highlighted three priorities for NRCS:

1. Support and harness market mechanisms to stimulate private investment in conservation. NRCS has been a federal leader in supporting water quality and greenhouse gas trading markets for a decade through its Conservation Innovation Grants program.

2. Leverage private capital to complement NRCS’ public investments. Weller noted that, “It’s no accident that financial entities and institutional investors are interested in conservation finance and green infrastructure. Let’s find ways to help investors generate returns and simultaneously generate ecosystem service returns for landowners and environmental quality.”

3. Harness the power of consumers. “With education and proper signals, I think there’s a way you can engage consumers to buy conservation,” Weller said. NRCS is engaging with groups like Field-to-Market to explore how to make buying natural resource conservation a reality for the American public.

Read more about the other USDA leaders who spoke at ACES.

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