Farmers advocating to have Va. coyote control funds restored

AFP Correspondent

(Nov. 15, 2016) A reduction of $95,000 by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe from the $192,000 appropriated for wildlife damage control in this fiscal year is generating attempts by farmers to have the funds restored in the next budget.
State agencies were asked to cut from their spending this year due to budget shortfalls.
The reduction was $95,000 of the total $192,000 appropriated for wildlife damage control for the fiscal year.
“It was part of the accepted five percent reduction plan,” Elaine Lidholm, communications director for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer services, said. “We proposed many reductions to meet our five percent goal and the Governor determined the final cuts.”
Chad J. Fox, USDA-APHIS /Wildlife Services district director in Christiansburg, Va., said that this $95,000 would affect his services to farmers.
“This cut amounts to over a full staff year and will require us to shift our employees working on the livestock protection program to other projects if we are to maintain their positions,” Fox reported in an e-mail reply to questions about the move.“This will require reduced services, reduced response times, and potential loss of the program operating statewide.”
When news of this action reached the New River Valley Sheep and Goat Club, which claims 325 members representing 108 farms in 13 counties in Southwest Virginia and neighboring states, it rallied forces.
Cecil King, president of the club, said the group is writing letters to local delegates and senators in the Virginia General Assembly and to members of the House Appropriations Committee Members and the Senate Finance Committee members asking for restoration of funds.
In a letter the members will be sending they are asking the legislators to “support and encourage the continuation of full funding from both State and Federal sources for the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control Program.”
Bryn Strader, a Giles County, Va., farmer and agriscience teacher, voiced his support of the VCCDCP when asked about the loss of funds. Strader teaches at Giles County High School and farms with his dad, Frank Strader.
“I feel it brings awareness to predator/coyote control that most people are unaware of,” he said, noting young calves, lambs and kids fall prey to them. “It’s one of the state programs that is effective and works. It is money well spent.”
In the club letter signed by King, he makes a case for the economic returns members are developing from their investments in sheep and goats and the ways to promote products such as milk, cheese and wool that are derived from these animals.
“Virginia’s sheep and goat production is a very important component to the gross income originating from small farmers within the western portion of Virginia,” it states. “Coyotes are responsible for more damage to livestock than all other predators combined,” the club reports.
“The loss of the VCCDCP will effectively put many of the small producers out of business due to livestock losses. With a contraction of the number of sheep and goats, there will be an economic ripple effect due to the decrease of feeds and related supplies purchased, livestock market reduced sales, increased prices for lamb and goat within markets and restaurants, and generally a reduction in economic efficiency in many sectors,” it continues. “The threat of damage from the growing coyote population is also deterring additional investment by existing farms, and potential new producers, in expanding sheep, goat and cattle operations. Coyotes are having a very real, negative economic impact to our region.”
King said the club sees VCCDCP as providing a structured and measured plan of action for farmers needing to control coyotes.