WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture has launched a national initiative aimed at damage caused by feral swine.

The agency announced the creation of a $20 million program to help states deal with populations of invasive wild swine that are responsible for $1.5 billion in damages annually.

Feral swineare one of the most destructive invaders a state can have,” said Edward Avalos, Undersecretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “They have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years and cause damage to crops, kill young livestock, destroy property, harm natural resources, and carry diseases that threaten other animals as well as people and water supplies. It’s critical that we act now to begin appropriate management of this costly problem.”

The Wildlife Services (WS) program of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will lead the effort. As part of the program, APHIS will test feral swine for diseases such as classical swine fever, swine brucellosis, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, swine influenza, and pseudorabies. Other initiatives in the program budget include:

• $9.5 million for state projects

• $1.4 million for establishing procedures for disease monitoring, including the development of new surveillance and vaccination methods

• $1.5 million for WS’ National Wildlife Research Center to conduct research and economic analyses to improve control practices

• $1.6 million for the centralization of control operations, and for making them safer and more cost-effective

Additionally, APHIS will coordinate its feral swine management efforts with peer agencies in Mexico and Canada.

“We’ve already begun this type of work through a pilot program in New Mexico,” Avalos said. “Through this pilot program, we have successfully removed feral swine from 1.4 million acres of land. By applying the techniques such as trap monitors and surveillance cameras we have developed through this pilot project, we aim to eliminate feral swine from two States every three to five years and stabilize feral swine damage within 10 years.”