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USDA DEDICATES AUGUST TO INVASIVE PLANT PEST AND DISEASE AWARENESS

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Contact:
Greg Rosenthal (301) 734-3265
Andrea McNally (301) 734-0602

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today proclaimed August as “Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.” Beginning this year, APHIS will engage the public each August to increase understanding about the risks that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America's agricultural and natural resources.

“Preventing foreign pests and diseases from entering the United States is my agency's number one priority,” said APHIS Administrator Cindy Smith. “These destructive pests can jeopardize the livelihood of our farmers, ranchers and foresters, and they can forever alter our natural landscape. We're dedicating the month of August to raising public awareness about these threats, and we're asking every American who can to help us fight invasive pests.”

Throughout the month, APHIS employees across the country will give presentations and provide information on invasive pests, the damage they cause, and what Americans can do to prevent their entry into the country and to stop their spread once they are here. APHIS will also participate in and support a variety of state-level outreach events in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, related to the invasive Asian longhorned beetle. Finally, APHIS will hold a grand opening ceremony and tour of the Miami Plant Inspection Station in Florida, and also an invasive species forum in California designed to bring a wide variety of stakeholders together to discuss invasive plant pest issues and potential actions for jointly addressing those risks.

Invasive species cause—or are likely to cause—harm to the economy, the environment and human health. From Americans returning from foreign travel, to arriving cargo on ships, there is always the potential for these dangerous plants, animals and microorganisms to enter the country. Many of these pests and diseases have seriously harmed industry and urban and rural landscapes and have caused billions of dollars in lost revenue and control costs. Some scientists estimate that the economic impacts from invasive species exceed $1 billion annually in the United States, in addition to the damage they cause to hundreds of millions of acres of native ecosystems and associated native plants and animals.

These pests grow and spread rapidly. They disrupt the areas they invade by pushing out native species, reducing biological diversity, killing forest trees, placing other species at increased risk of extinction, altering wildfire intensity and frequency, damaging crops, closing foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas and costing millions of dollars in treatments to industry and government. These invaders could ruin your favorite outdoor activity or, depending on how you earn it, your livelihood.

APHIS safeguards U.S. agricultural and natural resources from risks associated with the entry, establishment or spread of agricultural pests and diseases, as well as invasive and harmful weeds. In this battle, APHIS works very closely with its many partners at the federal, state, county and local levels, and at universities and nongovernmental organizations. Through its many safeguarding activities overseas, on the border and across the country, APHIS helps to ensure a diverse natural ecosystem and an abundant and healthy food supply for all Americans.

But APHIS can't do it alone. Individual citizens play a vital role protecting U.S. agriculture and the environment from invasive pests. Concerned citizens can find a list of specific actions they can take to protect our nation's agricultural and ecological health in the APHIS factsheet “Attack of the Invasive Species” at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/plant_health/
content/printable_version/attack_of_the_invasive_species.pdf
. They can also visit HungryPests.com to learn more about invasive pests and use the national pest tracker to find out which pests are threatening their state. APHIS invites every interested citizen to join us in this effort and make a difference that truly matters.

Note to Reporters: USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are available on the Internet and through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. Go to the APHIS news release page www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom and click on the RSS feed link. To sign up to receive APHIS releases automatically, send an e-mail message to lyris@mdrdlyriss10.aphis.usda.gov and leave the subject blank. In the message, type subscribe press_releases.

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