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Commissioner Miller Urges State And Federal Agencies To Meet To Address Cattle Pesticide Spray Boxes (8/2/2018)

For Immediate Release
August 2, 2018

COMMISSIONER MILLER URGES STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES TO MEET TO ADDRESS CATTLE PESTICIDE SPRAY BOXES
Ranchers complain the devices may be killing cattle instead of protecting them from pests

(AUSTIN)  Today, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called on federal and state agencies to meet as soon as possible to address rancher’s complaints about pesticide spray boxes in South Texas used to combat Cattle Fever Ticks.

Ranchers complained to Miller that the spray boxes designed to protect their cattle were instead killing them, prompting Miller to personally inspect the devices Monday.  He found the pesticide was being used in violation of the label, and there was not a licensed applicator onsite to apply the chemical.  Consequently, he ordered the mobile devices shut down pending corrective action.   

The spray boxes are owned by, and used under the direction of, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS).  The insecticide used in the spray boxes is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

“Today, I am reaching out to the leadership of the Texas Animal Health Commission, the USDA APHIS and the EPA to meet with me and my department as soon as possible to resolve this issue so Texas cattle ranchers can get back to business.  There must be no delay.”

The spray boxes apply an organophosphate called coumaphos, or Co-Ral, manufactured by Monsanto/Bayer designed to rid cattle of ticks and prevent a possible return of Cattle Fever (bovine babesiosis), a deadly cattle disease that plagued the cattle industry until its eradication in the 1950’s.

During application, the spray boxes enclose cattle in a narrow metal chamber as the insecticide is released as a vapor through multiple spray nozzles.  The label for Co-Ral specifies that the highly toxic insecticide cannot be used in non-ventilated areas.

Commissioner Miller reiterated that he offered TAHC and USDA APHIS multiple lawful alternatives to the use of the spray boxes in the fight against the Texas Cattle Fever Tick. 

First, the spray boxes could continue to be used if a customized head gate is installed, allowing the cow’s head to be outside the spray area.  Next, instead of the enclosed spray stall, cattle could be hand-sprayed with Co-Ral, ensuring more than adequate ventilation.  There are also alternative chemicals that could be applied as a pour-on or in a traditional dipping vat.  There is also an injectable substance that could be used to combat the ticks.

“As Commissioner of Agriculture,” Miller said, “one of my jobs is to ensure that pesticides are used in accordance with the law.  I will not look the other way if there’s a violation of the federally approved label, especially when it might result in the death of Texans or Texas cattle – the cornerstone of our Texas heritage and agriculture industry.”

Commissioner Miller said TAHC and USDA have not yet agreed to any of these alternatives to the spray boxes.

“I do not have the luxury of only looking at one side of an issue,” Miller stated. “I am committed to protect the industry and follow regulatory guidelines and applicable laws” he said.

Miller, a cattle rancher and member the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, has made support for the cattle industry in Texas a top priority at the Texas Department of Agriculture.

“The Texas cattle industry has no greater friend than the Texas Department of Agriculture,” Miller said.  “I’ve got staff traveling all over the globe to promote the Texas cattle industry and open new markets.  I have a satellite office in Argentina to promote Texas cattle and I even traveled to China to talk about Texas beef.  Now, for the first time, China is buying beef from Texas.”

An eighth-generation Texas farmer and rancher, Sid Miller is the 12th Commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA).  A nine-time world champion rodeo cowboy, he has devoted his life to promoting Texas agriculture, rural communities and the western heritage of Texas. Learn more about the Texas Department of Agriculture and Commissioner Miller at www.texasagriculture.gov.

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Contact: Mark Dallas Loeffler
(512) 475-1669