Plants make the oxygen we breathe and give us 80 percent of the food we eat. But plants are under attack by invasive pests. These pests destroy up to 40 percent of the world’s food crops and cause $220 billion in trade losses each year, according to the United Nations. That leaves millions of people worldwide without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture — the primary source of income for rural communities.
To bring worldwide attention to this challenge, the U.N. has declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. They are calling on people, organizations, industries, scientists, and governments to work together to protect plants against the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The U.S. National Plant Protection Organization — the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine — is leading the effort in the United States.
“At USDA, we do all we can for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers so that they can continue to feed and clothe this nation and the world,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach. “That’s why we’re urging everyone to take this issue seriously and to do their part. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than the alternative.”
According to USDA, everyone can help avoid the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods, and food security. You can get started today by taking a few important actions, including:
- Look for and report unusual signs of pests or disease in trees and plants to your local Extension, State department of agriculture, or local State Office.
- Don’t move firewood. Instead, buy heat-treated firewood or responsibly gather wood near the place it will be burned to ensure tree-killing beetles hiding inside can’t spread to new areas.
- Always declare food, plants, or other agricultural items to U.S. Customs and Border Protection when returning from international travel so they can make sure these items are free of pests.
- Contacting your local State Office before you buy seeds or plants online from other countries to find out if they need to be inspected and certified as pest free or meet other conditions to legally bring them into the United States.
To learn more about the International Year of Plant Health and how you can help stop destructive invasive plant pests, visit USDA’s website.