FY21 House Agriculture Appropriations Testimony for APHIS

Written Testimony

Submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
March 31, 2020

The undersigned organizations, many of which are members of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC), thank you for the vital increase the FY 2020 funding levels. SUFC comprises national organizations and corporations representing hundreds of thousands of professionals and millions of supporters who are passionate about trees, forests, and green infrastructure in our nation’s communities—the trees growing where 85 percent of Americans live. The undersigned write today in support of federal resources that provide a solid national urban and community forestry and forest protection strategy and actions.

Two USDA agencies share responsibility for protecting America’s forests from pests. The Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development appropriates funds to one of them, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS helps keep the nation’s forests healthy by preventing introduction and spread of invasive pests. Prevention is by far the most cost-effective approach to minimizing pest damage.

The undersigned ask the Subcommittee to at least maintain FY 2020 funding levels for the following USDA APHIS Plant Health programs: “Tree and Wood Pests” at $60 million; “Specialty Crops” at $192 million; “Methods Development” at $21 million; a “Detection Funding” at $28 million.

Non-native tree-killing pests already impose high economic and environmental costs to America’s forests. Together, municipal governments and homeowners across the country spend more than $3 billion each year to remove trees killed by non-native pests. Homeowners absorb an additional $1.5 billion in reduced property values. As new pests are introduced, and established pests spread, these costs will rise. APHIS must have resources to counter this threat.

Pests are often introduced in urban or suburban areas, which receive the bulk of the imports which are transporting the pests. These pests must be eradicated or contained there so they cannot spread to all forests. APHIS is responsible for preventing this spread, including by curtailing the human role—moving wood firewood and plants (such as nursery stock). The pests introduced to our cities threaten not just the trees in city parks, along our streets, and in people’s yards—as important as those trees are to the environment and human well-being. Those pests also threaten forests across the continent. APHIS’ programs aimed at eradicating or containing pests where they occur are crucial to preventing destruction to all American forests.

Pests arrive via imports. Of the millions of shipping containers entering the US each year, an estimated 17,650 carry wood-boring insects like the Asian longhorned beetle. Gypsy moths and spotted lanternflies come as egg masses attached to steel, stone, vehicles, or containers. As imports rise, APHIS must have sufficient resources to counter associated pests.

Imports of living plants have transported many forest pests. Probable examples include, most recently, the rapid ohia death pathogens which threaten all native forests in Hawaii; and beech leaf disease, which has been detected in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.

APHIS needs to be able to respond to pests already in the country and to the others that will be introduced in coming years.

Tree and Wood Pests: Funding for this program supports eradication and control efforts targeting only three insects: the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), emerald ash borer (EAB), and gypsy moth. Each is responsible for billions of dollars in damage each year. Using about two-thirds of these funds, the ALB eradication program has eradicated 85% of the infestation in New York and outlying infestations in Ohio. There has been encouraging progress in Massachusetts, although detection of an ALB-infested tree in a new township within the quarantine zone proves that this program must be maintained to ensure final success.

The EAB program has been funded at $7 million. APHIS has proposed to terminate the emerald ash borer regulatory program. Many stakeholders have urged APHIS to continue its engagement on options to curtail movement of firewood and other materials that facilitate the ash borer’s spread. We ask the Committee to adopt report language which advises APHIS to utilize the increase in funding to respond to these stakeholders’ pleas.

Specialty Crops: This program funds APHIS’ regulation of nurseries to prevent spread of the sudden oak death pathogen (SOD) to the East. Eastern forest tree species that could become infected include several oaks, sugar maple, and black walnut. Given their vulnerability, we are alarmed that last year, nursery stock infected by SOD was shipped to 18 states, including Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas. Clearly, APHIS must strengthen this program.

The “specialty crops” budget line should also support efforts to manage the spotted lanternfly (SLF), which threatens grapes and tree fruits as well as forest trees. SLF has already spread from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The undersigned support continued funding of the “Methods Development” program at the FY 2020 level of $21 million. Under this program, APHIS develops essential detection and eradication tools.

Similarly, we support continued funding of the “Detection” budget line at $28 million. This program supports the collaborative state–federal program that detects newly introduced pests. Successful eradication and containment programs depend on such early detection. Such programs prevent more widespread loss of forestland and associated costs and job losses.

Thank you for your past support for these programs. The undersigned appreciate the opportunity to share this testimony and look forward to continuing to work with you to further the goal of ensuring adequate funding in FY 2021 for critical pest-prevention and control programs.

Supporting Organizations

Alliance for Community Trees
American Forests
American Planning Association
American Society of Consulting Arborists
Arbor Day Foundation
Center for Invasive Species Prevention
Cleveland Clinic
Corazon Latino
Green Infrastructure Center
International Society of Arboriculture
Keep America Beautiful
National Association of Landscape Professionals
National Association of State Foresters
National Recreation and Park Association
Professional Grounds Management Society
Society of American Foresters
Society of Municipal Arborists
Student Conservation Association
The Davey Institute
The Nature Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land
Wildlife Habitat Council