USDA established the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in 1972 as its lead agency for safeguarding the health of American agriculture. APHIS brought several vital USDA functions under one roof, including protecting plant and animal health and ensuring the humane care of animals used in research, exhibition, and other activities. Today, APHIS’ mission also includes the regulation of genetically engineered organisms that could pose a threat to agriculture and improving the coexistence of wildlife and people.
Key Dates in APHIS History
1972: APHIS forms a joint commission with Mexico to push New World screwworm—eradicated from the United States in 1966—further south. By 2006, the deadly cattle pest is eradicated all the way through Central America to the Panama-Colombia border.
1975: APHIS begins enforcing strict regulations on endangered plants that are traded commercially under the newly ratified Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
1976: With the creation of the North American Plant Protection Organization, APHIS plant health officials, their counterparts in Canada and Mexico, and industry partners begin developing regional standards for plant protection and quarantine activities and for safely trading plants and plant products.
1978: APHIS launches the boll weevil eradication program. To date, APHIS, State agencies, and the cotton industry have eradicated this pest from more than 98 percent of U.S. cotton acreage.
1984: APHIS deploys the Beagle Brigade—a corps of detector dogs specially trained by agency experts to sniff out illegally imported food in luggage at international airports across the country.
1985: APHIS leads Federal efforts for managing wildlife damage to agriculture—and resolving wildlife conflicts with other human activity—in collaboration with State, Tribal, local, and industry partners.
1987: APHIS begins regulating genetically modified organisms that could affect plant health.
1992: As international trade grows in importance, APHIS creates a cross-program staff dedicated to augmenting the agency’s efforts to manage agricultural trade issues and expand import/export opportunities for U.S. producers and consumers.
1992: APHIS establishes the National Veterinary Accreditation Program to create a nationwide network of private veterinarians who protect public health by helping prevent, control, and eradicate animal disease.
1997: APHIS implements a nationally coordinated wildlife rabies management program—including an oral rabies vaccination campaign—to control the spread of rabies in more than 20 States.
2000s: The Plant Protection Act (2000) and the Animal Health Protection Act (2002) modernize animal and plant health laws, giving APHIS more tools for safeguarding agriculture and responding to pest and disease threats.
2002-2003: Close to 1,000 APHIS employees and volunteers work with State agricultural officials to successfully contain and eradicate an outbreak of virulent Newcastle disease in western States—within a record-breaking 6 months, and at considerable cost savings.
2003: The U.S. Government transfers APHIS’ port inspectors to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. APHIS retains regulatory authority over imported plants, plant products, animals, and animal products.
2004: APHIS conducts intensive bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance in U.S. cattle during a 12- to 18-month period and successfully retains 23 foreign markets for beef and beef products, worth more than $330 million worldwide, after detecting BSE in a Washington State cow in December 2003.
2006: Working with State officials and industry, APHIS establishes the Citrus Health Response Program to combat serious diseases that threated U.S. citrus, including citrus greening, sweet orange scab, and citrus black spot. APHIS will later lead a multiagency group that creates tools to help the U.S. citrus industry fight back against citrus greening.
2008: As mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill, APHIS inaugurates the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, which strengthens the ability of the agency and its many partners to safeguard U.S. specialty crops, agriculture, and natural resources. In 2014, this program will be combined with the National Clean Plant Network.
2010: APHIS launches the Center for Animal Welfare in Kansas City, Missouri, to serve as a national resource for guidance, education, and outreach to improve the welfare of animals.
2014: APHIS launches the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program, a collaborative effort with States, Tribes, and other stakeholders to respond to the serious damage and disease threats these animals pose.
2014-2015: APHIS and its partners successfully combat a massive outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, a deadly poultry disease. It is the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history.
2016: APHIS declares eradication of the European grapevine moth, a highly destructive pest that threatened the U.S. grape industry and valuable export markets for U.S. grapes and stone fruit.
2018: APHIS eradicates pink bollworm from commercial U.S. cotton, ending a 101-year-old battle with one of the world’s most damaging cotton pests.
2019: APHIS declares the United States free of plum pox virus, the most devastating disease of stone fruit worldwide.
2020: APHIS finalizes the SECURE (sustainable, ecological, consistent, uniform, responsible, efficient) Rule, which reforms U.S. agriculture biotechnology regulations and opens new pathways for crop innovations.