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Honoring the 40th Anniversary of USDA APHIS

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

While many Americans may not have heard of APHIS, the Agency's mission is so far-reaching that most are touched by its regulatory activities or policies every day. We in the Agriculture Committee understand that when we learned last month of the cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that it was APHIS' swift response and scientific approach that reassured our trading partners that U.S. beef is safe and kept trade moving. We understand that it is APHIS whose work every day keeps our country free from many invasive insects and diseases like the destructive Mediterranean fruit fly. Every day, we hear and see the positive strides this Agency is making in support of U.S. agriculture.
Since APHIS was formed in 1972, it has evolved into a multi-faceted Agency with responsibilities that include protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. To carry out its mission, APHIS employees work to create and sustain opportunities for America's farmers, ranchers and producers and to safeguard the nation's agriculture, fishing and forestry industries. For that, I applaud them and join in celebrating this Agency's history.

During the early 1970s, APHIS was put to the test when it spearheaded an enormous effort to control an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease in Southern California that threatened the Nation's entire poultry and egg supply.

APHIS mobilized thousands of workers in a response that included an investigation of over 77 million birds, administration of 113 million doses of vaccines, and maintenance of a quarantine zone spanning 45,000 square miles. Success was achieved in 1974 and marked the first time any country had eradicated such a widespread outbreak of the deadly disease, and it provided a blueprint for future animal disease control efforts. Using lessons it learned from the earlier outbreak, APHIS again lead a taskforce of Federal, State, and private veterinarians in 2002 to effectively stamp out an exotic Newcastle disease outbreak in California and other Western States. This time, however, APHIS and its partners eradicated this devastating disease in one-third the time and at one-half the cost of prior outbreaks, protecting the health of the country's poultry resources, worth more than $23 billion.

Through the National Boll Weevil Eradication Program launched in the late 1970s, APHIS and its partners eradicated boll weevil from 16 of 17 cotton-producing States, with the last, Texas nearing completion of its eradication efforts. This three-decade effort has succeeded through the participation and cooperation of industry, State and Federal agriculture agencies, and APHIS in sharing costs and developing and improving eradication strategies to meet every challenge. APHIS continues its myriad of programs dedicated to keeping harmful and invasive plant pests and diseases out of this country and eradicating them quickly should they arrive. Recently, APHIS and its State and industry partners have nearly eliminated European grapevine moth infestations, keeping domestic commerce and foreign markets open for grapes, stone fruit, berries, and other commodities that would otherwise have been threatened by the pest.

APHIS assumed a new mandate for wildlife damage management in 1985, after Congress transferred the Animal Damage Control program from the Department of the Interior to USDA. Through this program, APHIS provides Federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist. APHIS has provided critical support to U.S. agricultural producers over the years finding practical, humane, effective, and environmentally safe solutions when wildlife attack livestock or damage crops. But the program's impact extends beyond agriculture to urban areas, where they work to reduce wildlife hazards at the Nation's airports and military airbases, eradicate invasive species such as the Giant Gambian rat, and combat wildlife rabies.

APHIS' role in the Federal biotechnology era began in 1986 with the ``Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology,'' which outlined a comprehensive U.S. Government regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology research and products. In November 1987, using new policies for regulating the introduction of genetically engineered organisms that might pose risks to plants, APHIS for the first time approved a field test, for a tobacco resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil. Since then, the Agency has overseen nearly 30,000 field trials at over 86,000 different locations and approved over 80 products for nonregulated status--many of which have subsequently been further developed and released as varieties used in agriculture benefitting farmers and consumers while decreasing overall pesticide use and soil erosion.

APHIS' role in protecting and promoting the health of U.S. agriculture is also critical in the international trade arena. As part of the move to support growth in international trade while fulfilling APHIS' mission to protect American agriculture, APHIS inspectors began preclearing imports destined for the United States before they left their country of origin in the 1980s. APHIS also began employing other approaches to ensure that imported commodities were free of pests and diseases--X-ray detection devices began screening baggage for illegal material, and APHIS' ``Beagle Brigade,'' established in 1984, sniffed out prohibited foods in passenger luggage. Throughout the years, APHIS' ability to quickly respond to outbreaks of foreign plant pests and diseases, helps assure our trading partners that U.S. products are safe and that the United States is a model for protecting the health and abundance of agriculture.

Today, APHIS continues to enhance its animal welfare efforts, overseeing the care and treatment of animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act at licensed and registered facilities throughout the United States and its territories. APHIS' risk based inspection system enables the Agency to focus its resources on the most problematic facilities and pursue enforcement against violators.
Lastly, I applaud APHIS for continuously seeking to work together with its partners and stakeholders to achieve success in its programs. APHIS is an Agency that recognizes that it must actively work with States, Tribal Nations, industry and other stakeholder groups to help manage the many issues that affect U.S. agriculture. This coordinated effort has enabled the Agency to be successful in protecting our valuable agricultural and natural resources. We have seen the results of this approach, for example, as the Agency has implemented the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. This joint effort by APHIS, states, industry, academia, and other stakeholders has yielded great benefits--helping eradicate devastating plant diseases such as Plum Pox in Pennsylvania, increasing surveys to find foreign pests before they can become established in the United States, educating the public on reducing the spread of these pests, and enhancing research so we have better tools to protect our country from threats to our agricultural and natural resources.

As you can see, through the decades, APHIS has continued to modernize in demonstrating its vitality and significance to farmers, exporters and importers, and consumers. APHIS' leadership in protecting and promoting the health of U.S. agriculture has served the United States well. For that, I want to congratulate APHIS and its hard working employees for a highly successful 40 years, and applaud their continued commitment to the American people and U.S. agriculture.


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