In 1997, the Texas legislature provided $2.5 million per year for FY 1998 and 1999 through the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station to The Texas A&M University System, University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and the Texas Department of Agriculture to address the fire ant problem in Texas, supporting the first two years of the six-year Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan.
To date, 35 projects have been funded at these and other institutions for FY 1998-99 through core funding and internal and external competitive grant programs. These projects are seeking sustainable and pest management solutions to the fire ant problem and support the development, transfer, and implementation of developing technologies.
Giving Texans a Bang for Their Buck
In 1995, there were an estimated 17,665,000 people living in Texas (Cummings 1995). At a cost for implementing the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan of $2.5 million per year, the per person cost of the program is $0.14 per year.
Four-fifths of these funds are directed towards supporting basic research in biological control, genetics, physiology, economics, surveys, and integrated pest management (IPM). One-fifth of the funds support Extension education programs, which are largely directed towards encouraging the implementation of community-wide fire ant management programs. Thus, the per person cost for fire ant management education is $0.03 per year.
The Extension Service's targeted county program areas for Dallas/Tarrant counties (3,885,400 people), Travis/Williamson counties (870,000 people), Bexar County (1,302,100 people), and Harris County (3,301,900 people) reach 9,359,400 people, or 53 percent of the Texas population.
What about the people in the non-infested, western part of Texas? These folks hopefully will benefit from knowing that the activities of the Texas Department of Agriculture to enforce the USDA Fire Ant Quarantine are being supported, along with intensified surveys being conducted by researchers from Texas Tech University, University of Texas, and Texas A&M University to document the distribution of the ant, particularly along the western edge of the ant's natural spread.
Cummings, J. 1995. Texas Handbook. Moon Publications, Inc. 598 pp.