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Category: Plant and Animal Health

Celebrate 50 Years of Protecting Animals with APHIS

A sea lion basking in the sun

A sea lion basks in the sun. Sea lions are regulated animals under the Animal Welfare Act.

Many people know that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the agency tasked with administering the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  But did you know that this is the 50th anniversary of that Act?

In 1965, a Dalmatian named Pepper was stolen from her backyard by a dealer, who then sold her to a hospital.  Pepper was used in research and subsequently died.  The public outcry was, understandably, enormous, including coverage in several major magazines.  As a result, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act – the precursor to the AWA – in 1966, and tasked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the health and wellness of animals used in research. Read more »

Saving Florida’s Citrus Industry Through Collaboration and Innovation

A thermotherapy truck covering infected citrus trees

Thermotherapy trucks cover infected citrus trees with a canopy to heat treat them significantly reducing the amount of disease in the trees and increasing their productivity.

The Florida citrus industry is under siege and the invader is a tiny bug called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).  The ACP spreads a disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening, and together they are destroying groves that have been cultivated by families for generations.

But all is not lost.  USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with State and Federal partners such as the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as State departments of agriculture and the citrus industry in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas to develop short-term solutions to help protect groves while researchers focus on longer-term projects that may one day put an end to this devastating pest and disease combo. Read more »

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is Real, and It’s More Than Just a Nuisance

Gypsy moth caterpillar

A gypsy moth caterpillar on a leaf in Massachusetts

While being outside in Massachusetts this June, I first noticed it.  A lot of leaves were falling from the trees, only these were chewed leaf parts, not whole leaves.

Similar to the children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar written by Eric Carle, some leaves didn’t just have chew marks but actual holes going straight through them.  Unlike the children’s book, this damage isn’t being caused by a friendly caterpillar who turns into a butterfly.  Instead it’s the result of ravenous gypsy moth caterpillars feeding…and feeding.  It’s so bad that in some areas, on walkways and roadways, it looks like fall.  Brown, dried up leaves are a contrast to summer’s lush greenery. Read more »

Happier than a Pig in Mud – Feral Swine Damage to Water Quality

Feral swine impact on water quality

An example of the damage feral swine can have on water quality.

How does the old saying go? That’s right, “Happier than a pig in mud!” Feral swine are no exception to this old farmer’s anecdote. Because they lack sweat glands, wallowing in mud and water is an instinctual behavior necessary for them to maintain a healthy body temperature. Unfortunately this behavior has cascading impacts, not only to water quality in individual streams, ponds, and wetlands, but to entire watersheds and ecosystems.

Excessive feral swine traffic around wallows and water sources causes erosion along stream banks and shorelines. Sounders, or family groups, of feral swine spend large amounts of their day around the wallow, especially in hot weather, which means they leave significant amounts of urine and feces in and around the water. The impacts to water quality go far beyond the immediate wallow site when silt, excrement, and potentially harmful pathogens, are washed down stream. Read more »

USDA Launches a One Stop Shop for its “One Health” Approach to Zoonotic Threats

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha inserts samples developed from cattle fecal waste into a solution that detects Salmonella on Dec. 6, 2002. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.

At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.  This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information.   This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources. Read more »

USDA Signs Three International Agreements Supporting Animal Health and Global Trade

U.S. delegation at the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris

A U.S. delegation, led by Dr. Jack Shere, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer, and Dr. John Clifford, U.S. Delegate to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) participated in the 84th General Session in Paris, France.

International trade is a key factor in the economic and financial stability of many countries.  Trade restrictions resulting from an animal disease outbreak can have devastating economic effects.  With this in mind, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service signed three international agreements on this very topic last month at a meeting of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in Paris, France.  These agreements will make it easier to maintain safe and fair trade of animals and animal products if an animal disease outbreak occurs. They emphasize the cooperation and understanding of the countries involved to promote shared knowledge, data and resources, which can be crucial during an animal health event.

The three arrangements, signed by the United States, relate to the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve (also signed by Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom), the Sharing of Vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease (Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand), and Supporting the Recognition of Zoning for Foreign Animal Disease Outbreaks (Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). Read more »