February 7, 2023


USDA celebrates APHIS success in protecting US agriculture




The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is celebrating the agency's many successful efforts to protect US agriculture and natural resources over the past year.


"APHIS has worked hard this year to safeguard US agriculture and natural resources," said Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt. "Whether it was preparing for or responding to foreign animal disease outbreaks, providing funds to protect plant health, updating regulatory processes, or any of our other accomplishments, our work this past year has reflected the goals of protecting producers and ensuring consumers have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food."


Since February 2022, APHIS has fought what has become the largest foreign animal disease outbreak in US history — the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 47 US states, affecting more than 57 million birds.


APHIS effectively worked with state partners to set up a national response aimed at quickly identifying new cases of HPAI and working to stop the spread of the virus. The agency worked to respond to the changing situation, including developing strategies to meet hiring and deployment needs for emergency responders and streamlining various response processes including testing and surveillance.


APHIS also allocated more than US$70 million to support 372 projects under the Plant Protection Act's Section 7721 programme to strengthen the US' infrastructure for pest detection and surveillance, identification and threat mitigation; to safeguard the nursery production system; and to respond to plant pest emergencies.


Universities, states, federal agencies, nongovernmental organisations nonprofits and US Tribal organisations are carrying out selected projects in 49 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. APHIS also set aside US$15.5 million to rapidly respond to invasive pest emergencies.


In 2022, APHIS made US$24.5 million in funds from the 2018 Farm Bill available for projects under the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. This funding is part of an overall strategy to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the US and reduce the spread and impact of potential disease incursions through advance planning and preparedness.


The funds will support cooperative or interagency agreements between APHIS and states, universities, livestock producer organisations, Tribal organisations, land-grant universities and other eligible entities. It will also support the nationally coordinated network and partnership of federal, state and university-associated animal health laboratories.


APHIS invested an additional US$30 million in the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, which allows APHIS to stockpile animal vaccines and other related products. This serves as an effective insurance policy in the extremely rare chance of an outbreak of certain high-consequence foreign animal diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease.


Additionally, APHIS launched new efforts to help prevent the introduction and spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the US through an outreach and awareness campaign called "Protect Our Pigs."


The campaign deployed a variety of outreach efforts to support these critical stakeholders, including downloadable fact sheets and posters, instructional videos, shareable social media graphics and a new interactive biosecurity guide. To date, these efforts have appeared in people's social media feeds over 38 million times and led to nearly 150,000 visits to the Protect our Pigs web page. APHIS will continue these efforts in 2023 to support stakeholders and keep the disease from US territories.


APHIS also hosted its second African Swine Fever Action Week on October 10-14, 2022. While ASF has never been detected in the US, the 2021 detection in the Dominican Republic and Haiti was the closest to the country in decades. APHIS partnered with industry and states to enhance already strong safeguards to protect US swine from ASF.


During ASF Action Week, APHIS hosted a Live Twitter Q&A with subject matter experts and a live webinar on the latest APHIS and industry prevention actions.  APHIS reached 8,000 stakeholders with detailed information on ASF detection and prevention via the Q&Asession and APHIS social media posts on ASF were viewed by more than 37,000 stakeholders.


When APHIS updated its biotechnology regulations in 2020, it included a new process to evaluate plants developed using genetic engineering for plant pest risk. This process, known as regulatory status review, focuses on the properties of the plant rather than on its method of production and ensures the biotechnology regulations keep pace with the latest science and technological advances. In 2022, APHIS completed seven regulatory status reviews. The streamlined process allows APHIS to better focus agency resources on the prevention of plant pest risk.


In another important development, APHIS and US Customs and Border Protection released the 2022–2026 Joint Agency Strategic Plan for their shared Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) programme.


The programme plays a critical role in protecting US agriculture and the environment by preventing the introduction and spread of potentially devastating plant pests and animal and plant diseases.


APHIS and CBP work together at US borders and ports of entry to carry out AQI programme activities to intercept and exclude any foreign agricultural pests that could affect US agriculture, trade and commerce. In this joint mission, the strategic plan will guide programme activities and set its focus for the next five years, driving planning and setting mission priorities.

- Beef Magazine

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