FY22 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Testimony for APHIS

Written Testimony of the Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriation’s Subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

May 12, 2021

The Honorable Tammy Baldwin
Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations

The Honorable Stanford Bishop Jr.
House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations

The Honorable John Hoeven
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations

The Honorable Jeff Fortenberry
House Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations

Dear Chairs, Baldwin and Bishop and Ranking Members, Hoeven and Fortenberry:

The undersigned organizations, many of which are members of Sustainable Urban Forests Coalition (SUFC), write today to urge continued support by the Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development for a federal program that is key to protecting America’s urban and rural forests from pest-caused mortality: the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS is responsible for preventing introduction and spread of invasive pests. While most port inspections are carried out by the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, APHIS sets the policy guidance. APHIS also inspects imports of living plants.

ProgramFY 2020 (millions)FY 2021 (millions)FY 2022 ask (millions)
Tree & Wood Pest$60.000$60.456$70 million
Specialty Crops$192.000$196.553$200 million
Pest Detection$27.446$27.733$30 million
Methods Development$20.686$20.844$25 million

We ask that you continue your past support for four USDA APHIS programs that are essential for protecting the nation’s forests from invasive pests: Tree and Wood Pests, Specialty Crops, Methods Development, and Pest Detection. We thank you for the incremental increases in funding for these programs in the past, but a more substantial investment is warranted.  

Introduced pests threaten many forest products and services benefitting all Americans, including wood products, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, clean water and air, storm water management, lower energy costs, improved health, aesthetic enjoyment, and related jobs. These pests also impose significant costs, borne principally by municipal governments and homeowners. As more pests have been accidentally introduced over time, these costs have risen. Some crops—including avocadoes, grapes, tree fruits and nuts—are also at risk.

Tree-killing pests are linked to the international supply chain. Many pests—especially the highly damaging wood-borers—arrive in inadequately treated crates, pallets, and other forms of packaging made of wood. Other pests—especially plant diseases and sap sucking pests—come on imported plants. Some pests take shelter, or lay their eggs, in or on virtually any exposed hard surface, such as steel or decorative stone.

Imports from Asia have a history of transporting highly damaging pests, for example, Asian longhorned beetle; emerald ash borer (EAB); several ambrosia beetles which vector fungi killing avocado, redbay, sycamore, and willow trees in the Southeast and California; and sudden oak death disease.

Import volume from Asia rises every year. Two-thirds of Asian imports enter through the two ports of Los Angeles – Long Beach, and New York – New Jersey. The rest enter through Savannah, Seattle, Tacoma, Oakland, Norfolk, Houston, Charleston, Baltimore, and Mobile.

An estimated 6,000 of the shipping containers from Asia in 2020 were infested by tree-killing wood-borers. Rising volumes of imported steel, vehicles, and stone, and the containers themselves might carry egg masses of gypsy moths and spotted lanternflies.

Once introduced, the pests that become invasive do not stay in the cities where they first arrived. Instead, they proliferate and spread through both natural and human-mediated means. Their movement is often accidentally facilitated by people moving firewood, plants, and outdoor household goods (such as patio furniture). For example, the emerald ash borer has spread to 35 states since its likely introduction in the early 1990’s, and the redbay ambrosia beetle to 11 states since detection in 2002.

In this way, the pests introduced to our cities threaten not just the trees in city parks, along our streets, and in people’s yards, but also the natural forest stands across the country. Scientists estimate these pests also threaten an estimated 41% of forest tree biomass across the contiguous US and additional trees in Hawai`i.

Many forest pests are brought here in imported plants for planting (such as bulbs, saplings, and bedding plants). Among this group of pests are sudden oak death (which attacks more than 100 species of trees and shrubs, including oaks and rhododendrons); the rapid ʻōhiʻa death pathogen that threatens Hawai`i’s most widespread tree, ʻōhiʻa lehua; and beech leaf disease, a newly discovered threat that is killing beech trees in a band stretching from Ohio to Connecticut.

To respond effectively to these pests and to the others that will be introduced in coming years, the key APHIS programs identified above must have adequate funds. For this reason, we thank the Congress for increasing funding for APHIS’ Tree and Wood Pests program to $60.4 million in FY2021 and ask that you raise that funding level to $70 million in FY2022. We also thank you for increasing funding for the Specialty Crops program to $196,553,000 and ask that you raise that level in FY2022 to $200 million.

The Tree and Wood Pests account supports eradication and control efforts targeting principally the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) and gypsy moth. Eradicating the ALB normally receives about two-thirds of the funds. The programs in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio must continue until eradication succeeds. The ALB program must expand to counter the South Carolina outbreak, where more than 4,000 infested trees occupy an area of 58 square miles. Eradicating the South Carolina outbreak will be especially difficult because extensive wetlands limit access.

APHIS has terminated its domestic emerald ash borer regulatory program, which once cost up to $7 million per year. APHIS has said it will now focus on production and release of biocontrol agents as the primary management tool, although it has not indicated the funding level. It is probable that, in the absence of a federal domestic regulation, EAB will now spread more rapidly to the mountain and Pacific Coast states, threatening riparian and urban forests and potentially California’s olive crop. We urge the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of this new management focus.

About $5 million from the Specialty Crops program funds APHIS’ regulation of nursery operations to prevent spread of the sudden oak death pathogen. APHIS must step up its regulatory efforts to prevent a repetition of the 2019 incident, in which SOD-infected plants were shipped to 18 states, including Alabama, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana.

APHIS must also ensure adequate funding for management of the spotted lanternfly, which in seven years has spread from Pennsylvania to seven additional states, including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. This pest threatens both native trees and agricultural crops- including hops, grapes, apples, and more.

We support increased funding of the Detection budget line at $30 million for FY 2022. Early detection of newly introduced pests is critical to successful pest eradication or containment, which prevents more widespread damage and associated costs and job losses.

Finally, we seek an increase of $4.2 million in funding for the “Methods Development” program, which allows APHIS to develop essential detection and eradication tools.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to working with you.

Supporting Organizations

Alliance for Community Trees

American Forests

American Society of Consulting Arborists

Arbor Day Foundation

California Urban Forests Council

Casey Trees

Center for Invasive Species Prevention

City Parks Alliance

Corazon Latino

Davey Tree Expert Company

Green Infrastructure Center

International Society of Arboriculture

Maryland Forestry Foundation

Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee

National Association of Landscape Professionals

National Association of State Foresters


The Nature Conservancy


Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

Sacramento Tree Foundation

SavATree LLC

Society of American Foresters

Society of Municipal Arborists

Tree Care Industry Association

Wildlife Habitat Council