agricultural issues
© Prathan Chorruangsak |

The work of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the United States covers a wide range of agricultural issues, including protecting the U.S. from harmful invasive plant pests and diseases, as this article uncovers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service covers a wide range of agricultural issues, including protecting the United States from potentially harmful invasive plant pests and diseases. The organisation was established in 1972 to consolidate the USDA’s animal and plant health bureaus.

Since then, the scope of agricultural issues the agency oversees has grown exponentially and today covers areas such as wildlife damage and disease management, regulation of genetically engineered crops and animal welfare, and protection of public health and safety, as well as natural resources that are vulnerable to invasive pests and pathogens.

Guarding against invasive species and diseases is a 24-hours a day, seven days a week job for the agency. The potential consequences of, for example, the Mediterranean fruit fly or Asian long-horned beetle, going unchecked could be billions of dollars of production and marketing losses annually.

Similarly, if a disease such as foot-and-mouth or highly pathogenic avian influenza were to become established in the U.S., producers could face devastating losses due to the imposition of trade restrictions by foreign partners.

APHIS has aggressive emergency protocols in place to tackle pests and disease and it works with partners and affected states to quickly manage and eradicate outbreaks as soon as they are detected.

To promote the health of U.S. agriculture in the international arena, APHIS also develops and promotes science-based standards with trading partners to ensure America’s agricultural exports, which are worth more than $50 billion a year, are protected from unjustified restrictions.

Under the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Programme, the APHIS distributes funding to individual states to expand or enhance pest surveys, identification, inspection, mitigation and risk analysis, as well as public education and outreach.

Since 2009, the USDA has provided around $293.5 million and supported more than 2,340 projects under the Plant Protection Act.

Collectively, these projects allow the USDA and its partners to quickly detect and respond to invasive pests and diseases while maintaining the infrastructure necessary to ensure that disease-free, certified planting materials are available to speciality crop producers.

In the 2019 financial year, the USDA is providing $66 million to 407 projects in 49 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The largest single allocation will see $16 million go to California to support projects covering a range of plant health and pest mitigation activities.

This includes $5 million to survey for harmful exotic fruit fly populations in the state, along with $3.5 million to support the activities of detector dog teams in searching for harmful, exotic plant pests in packages at mail and express parcel delivery facilities.

Another $2.2 million will support the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) foundation plant stocks for citrus, grapes, fruit trees, sweet potato and roses. APHIS provides funding through the network to university and government facilities that develop, maintain and provide clean foundation stock for selected speciality crops. The programme is designed to help protect the environment and ensure the global competitiveness of speciality crop producers. In 2019, APHIS will allocate $6 million to support NCPN projects nationally.

Elsewhere, $1.7 million has been allocated to California’s Emergency Plant Health Response Teams for responding to, delimiting the infestation area, and managing outbreaks of exotic plant pests.

“California is a critical partner in protecting U.S. agriculture”, says USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach.

“With this funding, California will be able to better protect its own resources and, in doing so, contribute to USDA’s mission of keeping our nation’s agriculture economy healthy and strong.”


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