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Posts tagged: Animal Health

Preventing Disease Spread through International Collaboration

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Two departments, one mission.  That’s the reality for scientists working at Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory in New York.  The island—owned and operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is critical to the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) mission to protect U.S. livestock from the introduction and spread foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.  It provides a biologically safe and secure location for APHIS scientists to diagnose animal diseases.  For two weeks this spring, Plum Island was the site of an important component of our agriculture safeguarding system: sharing expertise and experience to build and strengthen the training, skills and capabilities of other nations, also known as international capacity building.

USDA and DHS welcomed 26 veterinarians responsible for evaluating animal disease outbreaks from 11 Spanish-speaking countries to a training called the International Transboundary Animal Disease (ITAD) Course, funded by the Organismo International Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaris (OIRSA).  The course, provided entirely in Spanish, helps familiarize veterinarians with ten of the most serious animal diseases. The trainings provide a highly-trained global network capable of readily identifying and containing these diseases around the world, minimizing damage to animal agriculture and people’s livelihoods. Read more »

USDA’s National Centers for Animal Health Makes an Impact on Agriculture

Under Secretary Avalos is shown buildings of the south campus by Dr. Elizabeth Lautner

Under Secretary Avalos is shown buildings of the south campus by Dr. Elizabeth Lautner

In February, I had the opportunity to visit USDA’s National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa. This campus hosts employees from both APHIS and ARS, who work together with tremendous collaboration.  ARS employees conduct research on diseases of economic importance to the U.S. livestock and poultry industries. APHIS employees work to protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of our nation’s animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics.

Their critical work in research, biologics, diagnostics, training, and coordination with stakeholders is impressive. It is a true science center where the work is intricate, precise, and timely. The scientific research conducted on the campus supports policy decisions, sets international standards and assures the country and the world that U.S. livestock and livestock products are safe for consumers. Read more »

APHIS Celebrates 40 Years on the Front Lines for U.S. Agriculture

This is a special year for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  Not only are we celebrating USDA’s 150th anniversary, but we are also commemorating our own 40th anniversary.  Through the years, it’s likely you’ve heard about or witnessed firsthand some of APHIS’ activities, or seen the hard-won results of our work—perhaps without even knowing it.

Our basic charge is protecting the nation’s food, agricultural, and natural resources, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, which began long before USDA merged two separate regulatory bureaus and created APHIS in 1972.

Did you know that APHIS’ predecessor, the Bureau of Plant Industry, played a critical role in the planting of the Japanese cherry trees skirting the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.?  The first shipment of trees in 1910 arrived in the United States heavily infested.  Japanese scientists worked with the Bureau to ensure that the second shipment would be pest-free and safe to plant.  This time of year, the beautiful show of cherry blossoms reminds us of the importance of our vigilance. Read more »

Bear Fencing Provides an Electrifying Experience

Written by Bill Wood, State Biologist, AlaskaLet’s say you’ve just awakened from a restless 6-month nap. You check on the kids and it seems like everyone is really hungry. On your way to the grocery store you pass a chicken take-out joint and the smell of those fryers is irresistible. With kids in tow, you perambulate into the unattended shop; by all appearances, it seems you may have discovered the proverbial “free lunch.” Who could say no?

This happens for scores of mammas and pappas all over the Kenai Peninsula every spring—mamma and pappa bears, that is. And it’s not just chicken on the menu. Equally delectable items like dog food, honey and fish, not to mention livestock feed, a wide variety of human foods and other attractive items draw hungry bears that are just following their natural instincts. Bears spend as much as 80 percent of their waking day feeding or foraging for food. So when they’re rewarded for their efforts with a fairly easy meal and experience no negative repurcussions, they can quickly become habituated to that attraction.

Bears can be destructive and these situations can potentially be dangerous for all involved. Chicken coops, beehives, smokehouses and the like can quickly become demolition sites with lost equipment, money, time and effort. Sometimes encounters between humans and bears don’t turn out so well for the people, but they never turn out well for the bear. People can be proactive in reducing the potential for these kinds of human-bear encounters in a few important and sensible ways.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) helps provide solutions for issues like this one. WHIP’s cost-share funding assistance is used to improve a wide variety of wildlife habitat conditions and help reduce negative impacts to wildlife species on private land.

For the 2011 fiscal year, NRCS has developed a new initiative available to landowners only on the Kenai Peninsula. The new project idea seeks to reduce potential up-close-and-personal interactions between people and bears at sites of human-induced bear attractants and provides matching funding to landowners to install permanent electric bear fencing. This type of fencing is an effective technique to exclude bears from areas where they should not seek food.

After receiving their first shock, many bears seem to sense the electrical charge in the fence lines and avoid those fences. When the fences are properly designed, even their appearance can remind bears of their previous unpleasant encounter.

NRCS, in cooperation with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will also provide fence designs and site management plans and recommendations for the installation of the fences. Site inventory and assessment is part of the technical assistance landowners will receive, in addition to help with purchase and installation costs.

To find out more about the program contact the NRCS Kenai Field Office at (907) 283-8732, the NRCS Homer Field Office at (907) 235-8177, or the office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kenai at (907) 262-9368.

A mamma grizzly on the hunt for food in Alaska.
A mamma grizzly on the hunt for food in Alaska.

Health and Physical Activity: Priorities for Every Season

I have had an eventful couple of weeks since my last post.

I spent a day two weeks ago in Riverdale, Maryland at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services building learning more about some of their programs.  I particularly enjoyed meeting with two economists, as many of my college classes related to economics.

At a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, right next to the White House, I took part in an interagency discussion about increasing participation in youth sports across the country.  I played soccer, basketball and baseball as much as I could when I was younger and believe it is important for children to have these opportunities.  I probably never would have made it to the Major Leagues without them.

USDA has a program called HealthierUS Schools Challenge to recognize schools that excel in fostering healthy eating and physical activity among students.  As a professional athlete, I am very concerned with nutrition and exercise in my own life, and I believe it is important to promote their importance to our nation’s youth.

Last week, I was honored to accompany First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Vilsack to Hollin Meadows Elementary School, a recipient of a HealthierUS Schools Challenge Silver Star.  We met teachers, students, parents and administrators in learning about the programs that have made the school such a success.

Ross Ohlendorf is joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack at Hollin Meadows Elementary School

Ross Ohlendorf is joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack at Hollin Meadows Elementary School

I have several interesting tours lined up over the next couple of weeks, while I also work on putting the finishing touches on my projects here at USDA. I hope all of the readers out there have a great Thanksgiving!

Ross Ohlendorf, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is spending part of his off-season at the United States Department of Agriculture. A graduate of Princeton University, he is spending eight weeks as an intern with USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs.