USDA Urges Public to Help Stop Invasive Pests and Protect Plant Health

April is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month and the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls on the public to do more to protect our nation’s food crops, forests and natural resources against invasive pests. This follows the United Nations’ declaration of 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health—a campaign aimed at bringing worldwide attention to the devastating impact invasive pests and diseases have on agriculture, livelihoods and food security.

"The stakes are high, and we need everyone to do their part to protect plant health," said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. "Each year, invasive pests destroy up to 40 percent of food crops around the world and cause billions of dollars in production and trade losses. That leaves millions of people worldwide without enough food to eat and seriously damages agriculture—the primary source of income for rural communities."

People can unintentionally move pests to new areas. These pests can hide in or on fresh produce, soil, seeds and plants. They can hitch a ride in untreated firewood, on outdoor gear, recreational vehicles and even in the mail.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things everyone can do to help:

  • Learn to spot invasive pests that pose a threat to plants and agriculture in your area.
  • Report signs of invasive plant pests and diseases to your local Extension office, State department of agriculture or your local USDA State plant health director’s office.
  • Don’t move untreated firewood. Buy heat-treated firewood or gather wood where you burn it to avoid unintentionally spreading tree-killing beetles that hide inside untreated firewood.
  • When returning from international travel, declare food, plants and other agricultural items to U.S. Customs and Border Protection so they can ensure these items are pest-free.
  • Before buying seeds or plants online from international vendors, contact your local USDA State plant health director’s office to ask if they need to be inspected or meet other conditions to bring them into the United States legally and without pests.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and visit the Hungry Pests website to find photos of invasive plant pests, a pest tracker for your state and phone numbers to report pests in your community. To learn more about the International Year of Plant Health, visit USDA’s website or follow #PlantHealth and #IYPH2020 on social media.

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Cecilia Sequeira, (301) 851-4054

Suzanne Bond, 301-851-4070