COMMITTEE CONSIDERS DANGER TO LIVESTOCK AND CROPS
As part of its interim duties, the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Costal Resources heard testimony relating to the state's preparedness against natural and man-made to its agricultural resources threats.
Dr. Dee Ellis, a veterinarian with the Texas Animal Health Commission testified that the state is well-prepared for biological threats against livestock. Officials concentrate on certain dangerous pathogens, such as foot and mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease, and contagious avian diseases, such as Asian bird flu.
Ellis said that there are three components to successfully addressing a livestock disease outbreak: following a tested plan, using experienced staff, and having the ability to track diseased animals. Texas is the nation's leader in planning for animal disease outbreaks, Ellis said, and added that the federal government uses an animal disease plan modeled closely on Texas'. Also, the state sent officials to England in 2001 to help with an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. They then collaborated with other state officials to help craft the first Foreign Emerging Animal Disease plan.
Texas Department of Agriculture official David Kostroun testified that the state is not as prepared against threats to crops and other important plants. Some states, like Arizona and California, have permanent roadside inspection stations to check incoming freight for dangerous or non-native plant pests. Texas has sporadic checks, operated on a 72 hour "blitz" format, conducted a few times each year. In order to better prevent non-native plant pests from getting into Texas, Kostroun said, the state must implement permanent inspection stations.