I hope this letter finds you and your family safe amid the pandemic that continues to affect the daily lives of us all. Fortunately, we now can envision a path out of it.
As we carry on into 2021, we reflect upon the past year and all that APHIS achieved. In 2020, we carried out APHIS’ mission despite challenges unprecedented in modern memory. We worked in new and innovative ways to continue safeguarding America’s agricultural and natural resources, protecting vulnerable animals, and feeding and clothing the world while ensuring our employees’ health and safety. We protected against longstanding pest and disease threats while adapting to help test animal samples for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
As APHIS approaches its 50th anniversary next year, we note that 2020 was the most productive year in our history. It is my honor on behalf of over 8,600 employees, working in all 50 States, 4 territories, and 27 countries, to report to you on those 2020 accomplishments. Among the highlights:
- Successfully eradicating Ralstonia solanacearum race 3, biovar 2—a disease that can cause significant harm to U.S. agriculture—from more than 650 U.S. commercial greenhouses in 44 States just 2 months after it was detected.
- Declaring Southern California free of virulent Newcastle disease after a 2-year, $57-million effort with our State partners to protect poultry from this highly contagious and fatal bird disease.
- Establishing confirmatory testing services for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, testing more than 430 animals, with 66 confirmed positive, and setting up further support at 37 National Animal Health Laboratory Network labs, including 22 with capability to test human samples.
- Continuing Animal Welfare Act oversight throughout the pandemic. APHIS contacted 100 percent of regulated facilities—with more than 18,000 phone calls and emails between March and August alone—to review records, monitor compliance, and offer other remote support.
- Distributing more than 8.2 million vaccine baits to combat raccoon rabies in 17 Eastern States and more than 1.1 million baits in Texas to prevent canine rabies from reemerging along the Mexican border.
This is a small representation of what you’ll find in the 2020 Impact Report. In a year when travel dropped sharply and the U.S. economy lost roughly 9 million jobs, APHIS:
- Helped keep 22.2 million Americans employed in U.S. agriculture;
- Facilitated new export markets for a wide range of U.S.-origin products, such as pet food to China (worth up to $300 million per year); bovine meat-and bone meal to Mexico (valued at $65 million); and live cattle to Uzbekistan (valued at $25 million) and Morocco (valued at $10 million);
- Inspected and cleared 5 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables—a 100 percent increase over last year—and 1.05 billion plants from 23 countries before they were shipped to the United States;
- Helped 19,400 producers protect their livestock from predation, and in general protected 900 million acres of U.S. farmland; and
- Performed more than 500 compliance inspections of authorized field trials involving organisms developed using genetic engineering, with more than 80 percent conducted virtually to maintain this essential function during the pandemic.
You can read about these and other APHIS accomplishments to find out more about the impact of our work across the United States and the world last year in the 2020 Impact Report.