Farm bill hopes to tackle unwelcome guests: Feral swine


By Ben Nuelle, AgriPulse



Producers from Florida to California hope a new 2018 farm bill pilot program will help reduce feral swine populations, which have caused billions in damage to farm and ranch land across at least 35 states.


The 2018 farm bill provided $75 million to USDA's Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to fund a pilot program to control feral swine - the first time the farm bill has funded such a program. The 2014 farm bill called on USDA to recognize the problem of feral swine as a high priority, but didn’t allocate funding.


Separate from the farm bill, Congress appropriated $20 million for the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program in the 2014 budget. Since the program’s launch in August of that year, funding from Congress has increased and is now at $30.5 million for fiscal 2019.


The overall goal of the FSDM program is to work with all levels of government to minimize damage of feral swine and control the problem.


Around $37.5 million of the money from the 2018 farm bill will go to NRCS to fund on-farm trapping and other technology. APHIS will use the other 50 percent to continue testing population reduction methods already established.


“It’s just another pest we have to manage,” said Jimmy Dodson, who grows cotton and sorghum near Corpus Christi, Texas. “In some cases, it’s the number one pest for sorghum and corn.”


The voracious foragers continue to run rampant across Texas and at least 34 other states. Over six million feral hogs roam the U.S., mostly in the southern part of the country. Texas alone has 1.5 million wild hogs. Northward movement of feral swine has doubled from 4 miles to 8 miles per year from 1982 to 2012, according to a 2017 study.


Feral swine destroy anything in their path such as cropland, roads, fencing and even wildlife.


There are all kinds of animals living in the same environment, “cattle, deer, quail, you name it, they're out there,” Dodson said.


The invasive species are not native to America. Settlers brought feral swine over as a food source in the 1500s and Europeans brought them in the 1900s for sport hunting.


The hogs are a cross of domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boars. Today, they bear a resemblance to domestic hogs but appear to be skinnier, sporting coarser hair and longer tusks. Wild hogs can weigh anywhere from 75 to 250 pounds or larger.


On his farm, Dodson said it is common to trap or shoot over 200 pigs of all sizes during the trapping season, which he said peaks between April and July...