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APHIS announces $2.8m to combat chronic wasting disease

zixian/iStock/Thinkstock captive white-tailed deer
Funds will allow partners to further develop and implement CWD management, response and research activities, including surveillance and testing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is providing nearly $2.8 million to 17 states and one tribe to conduct research and management activities to combat chronic wasting disease (CWD).

“APHIS is committed to protecting agriculture and wildlife across the country, and slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease across our agricultural and wildlife landscapes contributes to that vital mission,” USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs Greg Ibach said. “This is a prime example of federal, state and tribal partners working together to develop solutions to extremely challenging problems, and these cooperative agreements will help us control the disease and protect our natural resources.”

CWD is an infectious, degenerative disease of cervids that causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal. The disease has spread widely, and the limited number of tools -- as well as their effectiveness -- affects the ability to effectively control the disease.

APHIS said more than $2.4 million will be awarded to 15 different state natural resources departments and one tribal nation, while five state agriculture departments will receive a combined total of $349,531 to combat CWD. States receiving funding include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, along with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

These funds will allow these partners to further develop and implement CWD management, response and research activities, including surveillance and testing. APHIS gave priority to states and tribes that have detected CWD and have a CWD monitoring and control program or that propose to create a control program, the announcement said.

APHIS said it also used $200,000 to continue funding work on validating the use of predictive genetics in whitetail deer. Additionally, $1.26 million was allocated for indemnity payments to producers to assist state agricultural agencies in controlling CWD by removing infected herds or exposed cervids.

In determining how to allocate this funding, APHIS held a virtual summit in May with state agricultural and wildlife representatives, tribal officials and the cervid industry to discuss and develop current and future needs to address CWD. Attendees worked to develop a list of key priorities that will help the agency manage existing reservoirs of the disease but also provide additional tools to better manage it in the future.

APHIS used these collaboratively established priorities as the criteria for evaluating the projects the states and tribal nations suggested. Those priorities are:

  • Improving CWD management of affected farmed herds and free-ranging endemic populations;
  • Improving CWD management of affected areas or premises;
  • Conducting additional research on amplification assays;
  • Conducting additional research on predictive genetics, and
  • Developing and/or delivering educational outreach materials or programs.

In July, APHIS solicited proposals from state and tribal governments to expand the ability to understand and combat CWD. APHIS received 53 proposals, had a scientific and program panel review those and worked with the entities, where needed, to refine the scope of the most promising projects. A complete list of the projects is available at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/cwd/downloads/CWD-Coop-Agreements-Spending-Plan.pdf.

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