Invasive Species Background

Every year new outbreaks of invasive species are found in the U.S. These invasions are generally an unintended consequence, e. g., hitchhikers on global trade items; arriving as a result of weather conditions or accidental transport through pathways such as solid wood packaging; or “imported” by travelers bringing favorite materials back from foreign lands without realizing the risk associated with potentially infected material. Most disturbingly, they can also arrive as a result of purposeful introductions by terrorists. Vigilance is necessary at all times and turns.

The need for a coordinated national strategy seems obvious; however, the issue does not receive its due compared with the emphasis on expanding global trade. Many who track the invasive species issue, while supporting the value and need for global trade, recognize that trade is not without costs – and while global trade can be fair, it is not free. As a result, trade policies should entail assuring minimal economic effects associated with the introduction of invasive species – a level playing field, so to speak. While many federal and state programs are in place, the level of resources needed to combat the problems are nowhere close to dealing with the issues at hand.

To help to put this into context, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture noted in a 2011 presentation that the U.S. faces continuing pressure from new pests. For example, California reports one new invasive threat every 60 days; Florida identified 587 new pests from May 2007 to the end of 2009; and APHIS reports on new pest every 8 – 12 days. These numbers are staggering, especially for a problem that is not on the public radar as a national issue.

NASDA has a long history of seeking and supporting the federal government’s role in preventing, eradicating or controlling native and non-native pests and diseases and the expansion of states efforts to collaborate with the federal partners to identify, respond to, eradicate and or control plant pests and diseases (including weeds and aquatic nuisances in addition to insects and diseases). These come through pursuing appropriations for federal and state early detection and rapid response programs, risk based programs, emergency management, support for research and survey advancements and funding for management and control options.

Obviously, invasive species concerns vary from state to state and ecosystem to ecosystem. For example, invasive weeds cause problems in lakes, streams and stream banks and on rangeland, pastures and the environment; forest pests, generally insects and diseases, can affect forests, woodland, woodlots and urban and suburban areas; any pest or disease that affects an agricultural commodity, be it animal or plant, can be devastating; aquatic organisms, animal and plant, can affect waterways and habitat. The list seems endless – and with expanding world trade – the effects are endless too.

The diversity of concerns makes dealing with them difficult. There are a plethora of federal agencies involved. Additional information on federal programs can be found on the National Invasive Species Information Center on the National Agricultural Library site.

The critical nature of this issue and the disparate yet related agendas of the various parties seeking governmental attention to these issues leads to the need for a more coordinated effort to accomplish the collective goals of those interested in eliminating native and non-native invasive species that affect agriculture, forestry, the environment and our quality of life. This highly bifurcated approach has made achieving a unified message difficult; however, without a cohesive program that aggressively attacks these widespread and damaging problems, the continued detrimental effects will continue. The piecemeal approach has not been as successful as needed. We have plenty of committed advocates for dealing with the disparate problems; what we lack is a disciplined approach that weaves the broad array of stakeholders together – a shared value in achieving a reduction in the effects that invasive species are having on our culture, economics and environments.

The existing Farm Bill program places emphasis on plant pest & disease management which is crucial to states needs for prevention of pest introductions. The need for states to complement the efforts of Custom & Boarder Protection to prevent pest introductions from occurring is paramount. The program emphasizes funding projects based on risks in locations that are more likely to have introductions. This is a cornerstone of the pest and disease management prevention efforts. This emphasis on prevention is a very important frontline defense; however, it in-and-of-itself is not enough. NASDA’s focus on invasive species encompasses supporting:

  • Appropriations to expand the amount of federal dollars available to deal with emergency and program efforts (CAPS program, APHIS budget, early detection – rapid response, research, development and implementation of management and control programs, Forest Service budget),
  • Expansion of Farm Bill programs
  • Other efforts to advance knowledge of all significant invasive species problems and solutions to deal with them.