USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has allocated $58.25 million in funding from the 2014 Farm Bill. The money will be used to support 434 projects that prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment and ensure the availability of a healthy supply of clean plant stock in the U.S.
“Through the Farm Bill, we are working with our partners and stakeholders to not only ensure the global competitiveness of our specialty crop producers, but to fight back against the destruction caused by invasive pests,” Vilsack says. “The projects and centers funded through this effort are helping to develop and put in place the strategies, methods, and treatments that safeguard our crops, plants, and natural resources from invasive threats.”
AmericanHort welcomed the USDA funding announcement.
“For many years, the Farm Bill has been about row crops and livestock, but a decade ago, Congress began to acknowledge the importance of specialty crops and horticulture in America,” says Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort Senior Vice President For Advocacy And Research. “Specialty crops represent half the value of all U.S. crop production, and our industry represents one-third of the total value of specialty crops. This program represents a wise investment in solutions to enable future success.”
Some of the funded projects that are especially important to the industry and organizations like AmericanHort and its research affiliate, the Horticultural Research Institute, include:
• The Horticultural Research Institute will receive $149,500 to support the continued development of the Systems Approach to Nursery Certification (SANC) project, in partnership with the National Plant Board and USDA. Eight nursery and greenhouse operations across the country are currently piloting this new approach to plant production and certification
• Continued funding for the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California (NORS-DUC), $509,283, as well as several specific research projects that will deliver needed tools and information to deal with threats such as Phytophthora ramorum and other challenges confronting the nursery sector
• Numerous projects around the country in support of clean stock and harmonized certification programs for pome and stone fruit, citrus, grapes, berries, and roses; supporting the safe importation of new varieties; and orderly trade in planting stock for these high-value crops
• Several coordinated projects to address ongoing regulatory and production challenges associated with boxwood blight and downy mildew
• Granular insecticide treatment efficacy work for Japanese beetle and imported fire ant in compost-amended substrates
• Best management practices for control of bacterial gall, an emerging threat to Loropetalum, for $39,600.
“USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is a strategic partner in protecting our industry and facilitating trade, and today’s announcement is full of good news for our industry,” Regelbrugge says. “We appreciate all the hard work on the part of USDA and the APHIS Farm Bill management team toward ensuring these funds are invested wisely on behalf of American agriculture and horticulture.”
Since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted, APHIS has funded more than 1,200 projects that have played a significant role in protecting American agriculture. Collectively, these projects make it possible to quickly detect and rapidly respond to invasive pests. They also help to maintain the infrastructure necessary for making sure that disease-free, certified planting materials are available to U.S. specialty crop producers.