The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is celebrating the agency's many successful efforts to protect American agriculture and natural resources over the past year.
"APHIS has worked hard this year to safeguard U.S. 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."
Some of the agency’s major accomplishments this year include:
Responding to highly pathogenic avian influenza
Since February 2022, APHIS has fought what has become the largest foreign animal disease outbreak in U.S. history—the detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 47 states, affecting more than 57 million birds. As an experienced emergency response agency, 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.
Protecting crops and natural resources from invasive pests and diseases
APHIS allocated more than $70 million to support 372 projects under the Plant Protection Act's Section 7721 program to strengthen the nation's 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 organizations, nonprofits and Tribal organizations are carrying out selected projects in 49 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. These projects include Asian giant hornet research and eradication efforts in Washington and other states; exotic fruit fly survey and detection in Florida and California; and forest pest detection tools, control methods development, or outreach in 19 states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. APHIS also set aside $15.5 million to rapidly respond to invasive pest emergencies.
Supporting animal disease preparedness and response activities
In 2022, APHIS made $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 United States 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 organizations, Tribal organizations, 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 $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.
Enhancing awareness of African swine fever through the 'Protect Our Pigs' campaign
APHIS launched new efforts to help prevent the introduction and spread of African swine fever in the United States through an outreach and awareness campaign called "Protect Our Pigs." The United States is one of the world's largest pork producers and the second largest exporter of pork globally. If this deadly, highly contagious, viral disease arrives here, it is estimated it could cost the nation $50 billion dollars over 10 years. Commercial pork producers, veterinarians and pig owners are among the nation's first line of defense against ASF. The Protect our Pigs 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 our stakeholders and keep this deadly disease off our shores.
Hosting second 'African Swine Fever Action Week'
APHIS hosted its second African Swine Fever Action Week from Oct. 10-14, 2022. While ASF has never been detected in the United States, the 2021 detection in the Dominican Republic and Haiti was the closest to the United States in decades. APHIS partnered with industry and states to enhance already strong safeguards to protect U.S. swine from this costly disease. 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 Twitter Q&A and APHIS social media posts on ASF were viewed by more than 37,000 stakeholders.
Updating the biotechnology regulatory process
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 – first on a new tomato variety followed by six other plant varieties. This streamlined process allows APHIS to better focus agency resources on the prevention of plant pest risk.
Protecting animals and the public from rabies
APHIS continued its annual distribution of RABORAL V-RG, an oral rabies vaccine bait, in the eastern United States to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies into America's heartland. In August, APHIS Wildlife Services and its operators began distributing ORV baits across rural areas by airplane and in suburban or urban areas by helicopter, vehicle and bait station. APHIS distributed baits in Maine, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. Rabies is a serious public health concern. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, it also is 100% preventable and APHIS will continue its efforts to control it.
Finding new solutions to chronic wasting disease
In 2022, APHIS provided over $9 million in CWD funding to 27 states and 6 Tribes or Tribal organizations, continuing its support of chronic wasting disease management. They will use this funding to further develop and implement CWD management and response activities in wild and farmed cervids (e.g. deer, elk). CWD is an infectious, degenerative disease of cervids that causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal. New tools and approaches will help our partners better manage wild and farmed cervids at risk for the disease.
Strategic planning with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protect the nation's agriculture, trade and commerce
APHIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection released the 2022 – 2026 Joint Agency Strategic Plan for their shared Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program. The AQI program plays a critical role in protecting U.S. 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 the nation's borders and ports of entry to carry out AQI program activities to intercept and exclude any foreign agricultural pests that could affect U.S. agriculture, trade and commerce. In this joint mission, the strategic plan will guide program activities and set the program's focus for the next five years, driving planning and setting mission priorities.