Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) wrote to Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, calling on him to preserve funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the face of looming budget cuts scheduled to start tomorrow. He was joined by a bipartisan and bicoastal coalition of members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Last year alone, farmers in our area endured millions of dollars in losses due to federal quarantines. Keeping APHIS fully-funded is critical to mitigating any future losses. We must continue to do everything we can to prevent invasive pests and diseases to help ensure our agricultural sector continues to thrive," said Congressman McNerney.
Through research, inspections and eradication, APHIS helps to protect farmers and ranchers from domestic and foreign pests and diseases. In the last four years alone, the agricultural community has faced over 130 federal quarantines, a number that will surely rise without the preventative measures managed by APHIS.
"We have some of the most productive farmers in the country right here in our community. We must protect their livelihoods, both for the sake of our local economy, and the country. It is unacceptable to think that in a country as great as this one, we would let our agricultural sector languish when it is one of the bastions of our economic security and a leader in the global market," said Congressman McNerney.
The text of the letter is below and pdf is here.
February 28, 2013
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
Thank you for your steady commitment to our nation's farmers, ranchers, and entire agricultural system. We write to express deep concerns about budget reductions scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013 due to sequestration. Specifically, we urge you to protect funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS is essential to our nation's ability to prevent invasive species and diseases through important research and eradication measures, and in ensuring our food security.
APHIS is responsible for protecting U.S. agriculture from domestic and foreign pests and diseases so that our agricultural economy can remain strong. Without adequate resources to facilitate science-based inspections and responses to diseases and invasive species, our nation's agricultural economy will disproportionally suffer, causing much more economic loss than would be saved through devastating cuts to APHIS.
Agriculture is one sector where the U.S. has a trade surplus, which in recent years has reached over 40 billion dollars. APHIS plays a key role in protecting our farmers and ranchers from potential pests and diseases. For instance, U.S. agricultural producers have had endured more than 130 federal quarantines over the last four years. Farmers are dealing with a growing number of threats - such as the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Oriental Fruit Fly, Emerald Ash Borer, and the European Grapevine Moth. Providing common sense, cost-effective tools, such as those offered by APHIS, are imperative to a healthy agricultural economy.
We recognize that difficult budgetary decisions must be made, and that sequestration places great strain on your department. However, we can save more money by preventing invasive pests and diseases rather than attempting to manage the problem after it's too late. During this fiscal climate, I ask for your full consideration in assuring APHIS is adequately supported as it has been in the past.
We thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter and for your work on behalf of farmers and ranchers everywhere. We look forward to working with you to resolve this important matter.