Starving Out Hungry Pests through the Farm Bill

News Article -

By: Dr. Barbara P. Glenn, Chief Executive Officer

Invasive species are threatening the health of our nation’s agriculture,  forests, rangelands, waterways, and wildlife species. Zebra mussels, fire ants, citrus greening disease, and those pesky fruit flies in your kitchen are all examples of invasive species. And they all result in a range of economic, ecologic, and cultural losses.  For example, citrus greening, an incurable disease caused by the tiny Asian citrus psyllid, has reduced Florida’s famed citrus production by 75% in just 12-years.  While it is difficult to quantify the economic damage from plant pests, disease, and invasive species, in 2013, the Congressional Research Service estimated the potential aggregate economic costs, from invasive species alone, at $127 billion annually in the United States.  The single largest of these impacts was damage to U.S. agricultural crop and livestock production, totaling nearly $65 billion annually.

These clear and significant threats to agriculture are why NASDA is calling on Congress to continue and build upon the investments towards prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery to combatting invasive species. The 2014 Farm Bill invested important resources in the Section 10007 Program, commonly known as the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, to support this continuum. The projects funded through this program have strengthened the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) ability to rapidly, detect, respond, and mitigate the impact from these devastating plant pests, diseases, and invasive species. Since Congress created the program, APHIS has funded more than 1,700 projects that have played a significant role in protecting American agriculture. Examples of the $62.5 million investment by APHIS in FY 2017 include projects on agriculture detector dogs in Florida and California and response to a Coconut rhinoceros beetle infestation in Hawaii and Guam.

The state departments of agriculture are the first line of defense for invasive pests and have completed a number of projects under this program that safeguard American agriculture. They regulate products to guard against the introduction of invasive pests by regulating certain plants and plant products and prohibiting or restricting the importation of plants, plant parts, and plant products into the United States.As a compliment to the boots on the ground work of state departments of agriculture, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation developed the Pest Education Activities and Research (PEAR) Program. PEAR is working to help educate decision makers and stakeholders on the importance of having a robust toolbox to mitigate the introduction and impact of invasive species on American agriculture.

The next Farm Bill should bring additional tools to bear on this serious economic threat. Funding should be increased for the Plant Pest and Disease Management & Disaster Prevention and the National Clean Plant Network, a program which provides disease-free, certified planting materials to American specialty crop producers. Enhanced funding and coordination to combat invasive species and bolster USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy by involving other departments and agencies of the federal and state governments should be considered to strengthen programs and maximize the value of the federal funding.

This is part of an eight-week series. Please be sure to follow us next week as we take a look at opportunities to enhance the tools available to farmers for compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Photo Credit:David Cappaert, Michigan State University,