Likely Next Secretary of Agriculture Not Asked About Phytosanitary Issues on March 23, 2017

Secretary of Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue

Former Governor of Georgia Sonny Perdue was President Trump’s last pick for his cabinet. His long-delayed confirmation hearing took place before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on March 23, with at least 18 of the 21 members present for at least some of the time. He’s likely to be confirmed easily, given support from 700 agricultural organizations and six former USDA secretaries. However, final approval could take several weeks, given the time needed to answer senators’ follow-up written questions and a looming congressional recess.

In his opening statement, the nominee named four goals: creating jobs, making customer service a priority, keeping food safe for consumers, and ensuring stewardship of American lands. (Mr. Perdue’s statement and video of the full hearing are on the Committee’s website.)


The hearing was friendly – except to the President’s proposed budget, which calls for a 21 percent cut in USDA’s discretionary spending. Ranking Minority Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said the budget makes it clear that “rural America is an afterthought.” But Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and others noted that “the President proposes and Congress disposes,” with a nod down the table to Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) — each with considerable seniority — serve on the same subcommittee.


Phytosanitary policy did not come up — although CISP and others provided lists of potential questions on the topic to several senators. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) did ask how to stop the spread of avian influenza, detected in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Alabama. Gov. Perdue seemed confident, saying U.S. poultry exports are critical and we’d learned to respond quickly. (Four days later the disease was detected in chickens in Georgia.)


Few USDA agencies were mentioned by name. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was among those not mentioned. In response to questions, Gov. Perdue did voice support for “critical” research and extension done by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and said, in defense of the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS), that farmers need “independent, trusted sources” of information. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) asked about the potential of pathogen-laden meat imports from Brazil. Perdue noted that the Food Safety and Inspection Service “wants to go to” 100% inspection (a policy announced March 22) but a beef embargo would risk retaliation.


Mostly, specific programs were named only if they were targeted by the President for cuts (like NASS). Efforts to clean up agricultural runoff that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes; work to stem rural opioid addiction; and initiatives for rural clean water all fall into this group.


Only the U.S. Forest Service received more than passing attention. Its management of national forests was criticized. Several senators noted the crisis in funding fire-fighting. Forests, Gov. Perdue said, provide “opportunities clothed in challenges,” e.g., to implement best management practices and be better neighbors. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) urged him to restore active management of forests, as well as to limit litigation by “extremist groups.” Perdue sympathized.

Several themes came up repeatedly:


  • The importance of foreign trade. Chair Roberts wants agriculture at the top of priorities for the new White House National Trade Council. Gov. Perdue has already met with the U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce and aims to “sell [the country’s] bounty” in expanding markets.


  • The need for the secretary to be an unapologetic advocate for agriculture within the Administration. Gov. Perdue promised to be a “tireless salesman.” Hope that Perdue would support ideas proposed for the 2018 Farm Bill. These include expanding crop insurance for growers of specialty crops and the dairy industry; ensuring immigration/visa policy that supports year-round access to labor for dairy farms; providing summer nutrition programs for students.


  • Changing regulations that were called, variously, costly, hard-to-understand, or very onerous. As secretary, Perdue would “incentivize producers” to conserve without “onerous prescriptive regulations” (like those on wetlands; he has met with the new EPA Administrator).


  • Members’ requests that he visit their states — in some cases for public meetings on the new Farm Bill.


Generally, Mr. Perdue was agreeable — e.g., toward a stronger renewable fuel standard and better rural broadband access — or at least found Members’ suggestions “intriguing”. He promised to provide resources to help with the new farm bill and to further implement the 2014 one, either more fully (as Sen. Klobuchar requested) or more flexibly (as Sen. Thune did). Gov. Perdue confessed “some concern” about proposed budget cuts, for example, to agricultural research, organic agriculture, telemedicine, and nutrition programs — a list supplied by Sen. Stabenow. He cited his experience working within tight budgets in Georgia, though, and expects to do the same at USDA. He said that he was a “facts-based, data-based decision-maker.”


Gov. Perdue grew up on a dairy farm, is a veterinarian, and runs several agribusinesses. The latter got him in trouble, as Georgia governor, with the state’s ethics commission. He has agreed to put his businesses in trust if confirmed. These concerns did not come up in the hearing. Nor did his controversial views on climate change, although Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted the connection between fire and climate change and said climate change must be addressed. One person was ejected from the hearing after protesting animal agriculture.



Chair Roberts (R-KS); Cochran (R-MS); Boozman (R-AK); Hoeven (R-ND); Ernst (R-IA); Thune (R-SD); Daines (R-MT); Perdue (R-GA – the nominee’s cousin); Strange (R-AL).

Ranking Member Stabenow (D-MI); Leahy (D-VT); Klobuchar (D-MN); Brown (D-OH); Bennet (D-CO); Gillibrand (D-NY); Donnelly (D-IN); Heitkamp (D-ND); Van Hollen (D-MD).


Our comment:


We are disappointed that no one asked a single question about introduced pests or weeds. Nine of the senators present are from states already suffering severe tree mortality caused by the emerald ash borer; four more are from states that will soon see significant losses to that pest. All are from states in which invasive plants are often said to threaten agricultural production and/or natural resources.

Perhaps some questions will be put to Mr. Perdue in writing.


The combination of silence on phytosanitary issues and emphasis on the importance of trade seems to promise a continuation of imbalances that favor trade promotion at the expense of vigorous phytosanitary measures. If USDA leadership is focused on promoting export markets for U.S. agricultural producers, it will be difficult to persuade the agency to adopt and enforce effective tools to prevent pest introductions.



For more information:

DelReal, J.A. 2017. “Senators press Perdue on USDA budget. The Washington Post , March 24, p. A10.

Sheinin, A.G., “Bird flu found in Georgia chicken flock.” Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 27, 2017.–regional-govt–politics/bird-flu-found-georgia-chicken-flock/DGgBp1sUhctO6JLDLLyIFJ/

Sullivan, B.D., Sonny Perdue gets friendly reception during Agriculture secretary hearing, USA TODAY March 23, 2017.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, “USDA on tainted Brazilian meat: none has entered U.S., 100 percent re-inspection instituted.” Press release, March 22, 2017.



We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Posted by Phyllis Windle and Faith Campbell


Using politics to protect our trees from non-native insects & pathogens


As we know, North America’s trees are under severe threat from a growing number of non-native insects, pathogens, nematodes, etc. (For lengthy descriptions of the threat, substantiated by source citations, read the Fading Forests reports here; or check out a recent policy brief here; or short descriptions; or from my earlier blogs.)

I hope we all agree on broad goals in our efforts to counter this threat. I suggest those goals – broadly speaking, can be summarized as

  • Preventing additional introductions to the greatest extent possible
  • Detecting new introductions quickly, initiating rapid & effective eradication or containment actions
  • Minimizing the risk of pest spreading from one state to others
  • Implementing programs aimed at restoring pest-depleted tree species to forests


America decides what issues government agencies will address through politics – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We care about the pest threat to trees … so it is up to us to persuade political players to support programs structured to achieve these goals.

There are several approaches to engaging politicians. These should be pursued simultaneously and in a coordinated way. And we must persevere — asking politely but persistently for specific actions. Success is not achieved by one-time actions, but by continuing effort.


What Can We Do?


We can ask our state’s Governor to

Immediate actions

  • Communicate to the USDA Secretary the need to amend policies & regulations
  • Communicate with governors of other states with severe tree pest issues to ask them to support approaches to USDA & Congress
  • Put forest pest issue on the agenda of National Governors’ Association
  • Communicate with our state’s Congressional delegation and ask them to pressure USDA Secretary to amend policies and regulations
  • Communicate to the media both his/her concern about tree pest threats and proposed solutions.

Longer-term actions

  • Ask our state’s Congressional delegation to support proposed amendments to the 2019 Farm bill (see below)


We can ask our state’s agricultural and forestry agency heads to

  • Ask their national associations to support proposals to USDA Secretary & Congress. These associations include
    • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)
    • National Association of State Foresters (NASF) or its 3 regional groups – Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters, Southern Group of State Foresters, Council of Western State Foresters
  • Communicate to the media both the agency’s concern about tree pest threats and proposed solutions.

learning about forest pests (laurel wilt)

We can also act directly.

Ask mayors and officials of affected towns and counties to

  • Push proposals at regional or National Conference of Mayors or National Association of Counties
  • Instruct local forestry staff to seek support of local citizen tree care associations, regional and national associations of arborists, Arbor Day & “Tree City” organizations, Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition, etc.
  • Reach out to local media with a message that includes descriptions of policy actions intended to protect trees — not just damage caused by the pests
  • Ask stakeholder organizations of which we are a member or with whom we have contacts to speak up on the issue and support proposed solutions:
    • USDA Forest Service
    • State forestry divisions
    • Professional/scientific associations
    • Wood products industry
    • State departments of agriculture
    • State phytosanitary officials
    • Forest landowners
    • Environmental NGOs
    • Urban tree advocacy & support organizations


  • Encourage like-minded colleagues in other states to press the agenda with their state & federal political players, agencies, & media.
  • Communicate to the media both your concern about tree pest threats and proposed solutions.


Our goal is to create a “parade” – the impression of a groundswell demanding action that politicians will want to join. (Usually, they like to appear to “lead” the parade!). Note what was said by a real “Washington insider”, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute. “If you want to influence leaders, sometimes you have to start a parade.” Quoted in the Washington Post 2/10/17


What Should We Tell All These People, Specifically?

What should be the content of our message to these potential allies? I suggest a coordinated package.  However, you might feel more comfortable selecting a few to address each time you communicate with a policymaker. Just choose those you think are most urgent, those you feel most passionate about, or those on which you have the most expertise. There is something for everyone below!

  • Make specific proposals, not vague ideas (see below for suggestions)
  • Always include information about how the pests arrive/spread (pathways such as imports of crates & pallets, or woody plants for ornamental horticulture) and what we can do to clean up those pathways (Don’t just describe the “freak of the week”)
  • Always point out that the burden of pest-related losses and costs falls on ordinary people and their communities. (Aukema et al. 2011 provides backup for this at the national level; try to get information about your state or city.)
  • We need to restore a sense of crisis to prompt action – but not leave people feeling helpless! We need also to bolster understanding that we have been and can again be successful in combatting tree pests.


Specific actions that will reduce risk that pests pose to our trees:

  • Importers switch from packaging made from solid wood (e.g., boards and 4”x4”s) to packaging made from other materials, e.g., particle boards, plastic, metal …
    This can be done by

— Persuading APHIS to initiate a rulemaking to require importers to make the shift. This can be done – although international trade agreements require preparation of a risk assessment that justifies the action because it addresses an identified risk (see my earlier blogs about wood packaging).

— Creating voluntary certification programs and persuade major importers to join them. One option is to incorporate non-wood packaging into the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) existing Customs-Trade Partnership Against terrorism (C-TPAT) program.


  • Tighten enforcement by penalizing shipments in packaging that does not comply with the current regulations

— Persuade CBP and/or USDA to end current policy under which no financial penalty is imposed until a specific importer has been caught five times in a single year with non-compliant wood packaging. APHIS has plenty of authority to penalize violators.

The Plant Protection Act [U.S.C. §7734 (b) (1)] provides for fines ranging from $50,000 for an individual up to $1 million for multiple, willful violations. These penalties can be imposed by the Secretary of Agriculture after a hearing – but without going through a trial. So far, the Secretary has not used this power to deter violations.


  • Restrict imports of woody plants that are more likely to transport pests that threaten our trees

— In 2011, APHIS adopted regulations giving it the power to temporarily prohibit importation of designated high-risk plants until the agency has carried out a risk assessment and implemented stronger phytosanitary measures to address those risks. Plants deserving such additional scrutiny can be declared “not authorized for importation pending pest risk assessment,” or “NAPPRA”. APHIS has proposed two lists of plant species under this authority. The second list was proposed nearly 4 years ago, but it has not been finalized so imports continue. APHIS should revive the NAPPRA process and utilize prompt listing of plants under this authority to minimize the risk that new pests will be introduced.

— APHIS should finalize amendments to the “Q-37” regulation (proposed nearly 4 years ago) that would establish APHIS’ authority to require foreign suppliers to implement integrated programs to minimize pest risk. Once this regulation is finalized, APHIS could begin negotiating agreements with individual countries to adopt systems intended to ensure pest-free status of those plant types, species, and origins currently considered to pose a medium to high risk.

— APHIS & USDA Foreign Agricultural Service should strengthen surveillance in foreign source countries for pests likely to attack North American trees, using such strategies as “sentinel trees” planted in botanical gardens.


  • Strengthen early detection/rapid response programs by

— Providing adequate funds to federal & state detection and rapid response programs. The funds must be available for the length of the eradication program – which often requires a decade or more. The current “emergency” funds available as transfers from the Commodity Credit Corporation usually are cut off after only 1 – 2 years.

— Better coordinate APHIS, USFS, state, & tribal surveillance programs.

— Engage tree professionals & citizen scientists more effectively in surveillance programs.


  • Enact Amendments to the 2019 Farm Bill to strengthen programs aimed at protecting North American trees from non-native insects and pathogens

— Stakeholders meeting under the auspices of several coalitions are considering what amendments to the Farm Bill could be advocated for the purpose of protecting our trees from non-native pests. Proposals under consideration would address such issues as

>> Strengthening APHIS’ pest-prevention mandate (which currently is conflated with a competing mandate to facilitate trade)

>> Providing increased and more reliable funding for detection, rapid response, and long-term restoration efforts

>> Providing incentives to importers to adopt pest-prevention programs beyond current legal requirements governing wood packaging materials

I will provide additional information about these proposals in coming weeks.



Aukema, J.E., B. Leung, K. Kovacs, C. Chivers, K. O. Britton, J. Englin, S.J. Frankel, R. G. Haight, T. P. Holmes, A. Liebhold, D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle.. 2011. Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States PLoS One September 2011 (Volume 6 Issue 9)

Posted by Faith Campbell


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


How many new tree-killing pests can we expect?


Several analyses seek to quantify the risk that new tree-killing pests will be introduced to North America. They use different data sources and assumptions, and reach somewhat different conclusions. But all agree that the risk remains high, and the consequences of such introductions are dire.


I have relied on the Aukema et al. 2010 (see references at the end of the blog) and Haack et al. 2014 studies in past blogs. Aukema et al. 2010 looked at the probable dates of introduction for established insects and pathogens to determine that over 150 years, from 1860 to 2006, damaging forest insect and pathogen species were detected at an average rate of between 0.47 and 0.51 species per year. This translates to one damaging insect or pathogen every 2.1 to 2.4 years. The frequency of detection of high-impact forest pests rose sharply after 1990; beginning that year, detections of high-impact forest pests averaged 1.2 per year, nearly three times the rate of detections in the previous 130 years.

In 2013, 25 million shipping containers entered the U.S. An estimate from more than a decade ago is that wood packaging is used in about half of these containers. Haack et al. (2014) has estimated that 0.001% (1/10th of 1%) of the wood packaging in more than 12 million shipping containers entering the country each year is infested with quarantine pests. That works out to nearly 13,000 containers harboring pests that probably enter the country each year. That is 35 potential pest arrivals per day.

Leung et al. 2014 concluded that continuing to implement the international standard — ISPM#15 — at the efficacy level described by Haack et al. would result in a tripling of the number of non-native wood-boring insects introduced into the U.S. by 2050.

Koch et al. 2011 have also attempted to determine the current rate of introduction of wood-boring insects. They also sought to evaluate the introduction risk for specific metropolitan areas.

Koch et al. utilized various sources of information about volumes of imports of goods likely to be associated with wood-boring pests (e.g., raw wood and wood products; and stone, metals, non-metalic minerals, auto parts, etc., contained in wooden crates and pallets) to estimate both a nationwide establishment rate of wood-boring forest insect species and the likelihood that such insects might establish at more than 3,000 urban areas in the contiguous US.

They estimated the nationwide rate of introduction of wood-boring pests at between 0.6 and 1.89 forest pest species per year for the period 2001–2010.  Even the more conservative estimates points to establishment of a new alien forest insect species somewhere in the US every 2–3 years. If one accepts the ‘‘tens rule’’ – that one out of ten new introductions proves to have substantial effects, then one expects establishment of a significant new pest on average every 5 – 6 years. The authors note that the establishment of at least four ecologically and/or economically significant alien forest insects during the past 20–25 years – emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp, and redbay ambrosia beetle – fits the model’s conclusion. [All of these pests are described in the Gallery of Pests posted here.]

The Aukema et al. estimate for introductions of “high impact” pests during the period after 1990 – 1.2 per year – is in the middle of the Koch et al. estimate for wood-borers, but higher than the Koch et al. estimate for “significant” pests.

Koch et al. estimated a lower rate of introductions between 2010 and 2020 – between 0.36 and 1.7 species per year. The Haack et al. and Leung et al. analyses would seem to contradict this expectation. Also, the findings of Seebens et al. (see my blog from earlier this week) contradicts any expectation that introductions will soon decline as a result of depletion of the pool of possible pests in origin countries.

Koch et al. analyzed data on imports of relevant commodities from all source regions to determine the introduction risk for 3,126 urban areas in the country. The urban area at greatest risk was Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, California. The predicted introduction rate for both 2010 and 2020 for this metropolis was establishment of a new alien forest insect species every 4–5 years. The port of New York-Newark came in second, with a predicted establishment rate of one every 8–9 years. Houston ranked third; its predicted establishment rate was one every 13–15 years. All other urban areas were at substantially lower risk – a new introduction every 24 years.

Looking ahead to the decade 2010 to 2020, Koch et al. found that three California metro areas – Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana; San Diego; and Riverside-San Bernardino – would be exposed to increased establishment rates driven by the growth of imports from Asia.

Risk To Canada

Yemshanof et al. 2011 applied the Koch et al. methodology to evaluate the risk to Canada. Reflecting the lower volume of imports entering Canada compared to the U.S., they found a lower nationwide entry rate for Canada – 0.338 new forest insect species per year vs. the Koch et al. estimate of 1.89 for the U.S. Evaluating individual urban areas, they found the greatest risks to the Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver areas. Moderate-sized cities near ports, major markets, or U.S.-Canada border crossings – transportation hubs – were also at heightened risks.

Canada as Pest Pathway to U.S.

Yemshanof et al.’s model indicates that 8% of all tree pests entering the U.S. as estimated by Koch et al., come through goods transshipped through Canada. The risk is highest to the Pacific Coast states since they are the most likely to receive Asian goods transiting through Canada. Note that the U.S. and Canada have proposed requiring that wood packaging originating in one of the countries and shipped to the other should be included under the ISPM#15 regulation. However, APHIS was unable to adopt this regulation under the Obama Administration, and such an action seems even less likely under the Trump Administration.


Neither study included plant imports, which are another very important pathway for introduction of tree-killing pests, especially pathogens.



Haack RA, Britton KO, Brockerhoff EG, Cavey JF, Garrett LJ, et al. (2014) Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on Reducing Wood Borer Infestation Rates in Wood Packaging Material Entering the United States. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96611. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096611

Koch, F.H., D. Yemshanov, M. Colunga-Garcia, R.D. Magarey, W.D. Smith. 2011. Potential establishment of alien-invasive forest insect species in the United States: where and how many? Biol Invasions (2011) 13:969–985

Leung, B., M.R. Springborn, J.A. Turner, E.G. Brockerhoff. 2014. Pathway-level risk analysis: the net present value of an invasive species policy in the US. The Ecological Society of America. Frontiers of

Yemshanov, D., F.H. Koch, M. Ducey, K. Koehler. 2012. Trade-associated pathways of alien forest insect entries in Canada. Biol Invasions (2012) 14:797–812


Posted by Faith Campbell


We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Alien species introductions — going up!

trade transports many invasive species

Containers at Long Beach, California; courtesy of the Port Authority

In an article published recently in Nature Communications , Hanno Seebens and 44 coauthors show that the rate of new introductions of alien species has risen rapidly since about 1800 – and shows no sign of slowing down. See a summary of the article with revealing graphs here .

Through analysis of a database covering 45,813 first records of 16,926 alien species established in 282 distinct geographic regions, the authors determined that the number of new species reports reached a maximum of 585 in 1996 (or an average of more than 1.5 sightings per day).

Of course, whether a species’ introduction is detected depends on a variety of factors. One of the most important is the species’ impact – or lack thereof! – on economically important resources – this determines whether the species gets noticed. Furthermore, detection usually happens some time after a species’ actual introduction. And, regardless of factors motivating human attention, some types of species are more easily detected than others. All these factors skew the findings. Because many introductions are not detected, Seebens et al. note, their data underestimate actual introductions.

The authors found that the adoption of national and international biosecurity measures during the 20th century have slowed introductions – but they are not yet sufficiently effective. Most notably, numbers of reported new introductions of fish and mammals have decreased since the early 1950s. Of course, introductions of these taxa are usually the result of deliberate decisions, usually by authorities. It is encouraging that authorities appear to be getting the message that adding new species to an ecosystem is a risky enterprise.


Japanese honeysuckle; courtesy of

However, not all deliberate introductions have been curbed. Seebens et al. were surprised to see that vascular plant species introductions remained at such a high rate throughout the 20th century. Introductions of birds and reptiles also continue to rise, largely as pets in countries with strengthening economies.

For those plants and animals that are introduced primarily accidentally as stowaways on transport vectors or contaminants of commodities (e.g., algae, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates), Seebens et al. found a strong correlation between their spread and the market value of goods imported into the region of interest.

Having noted that almost all biosecurity efforts are not yet slowing introductions adequately, Seebens et al. point to New Zealand as the exception. That country adopted the Biosecurity Act in 1993 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act in 1996.

Although 20 years is a short period to gauge a policy’s efficacy – especially given time lags in detecting introductions – Seebens et al. say the stringent new policy appears to be succeeding. They found a significant decline in the number of new alien plants detected in New Zealand since the 1990s. New Zealand’s laws rely on a “white list” of permitted species rather than the more usual “black list” of prohibited species. New Zealand requires a risk assessment before a decision is made to allow any new species to be brought into the country.

Of course, such an approach does not apply easily to the taxa most often introduced as unintended hitchhikers on, or as contaminants of, imported goods, packaging, or transport vehicles – such as tree-killing insects and diseases. The paper notes that existing biosecurity regimes have not slowed down the accumulation of alien species introductions overall, but especially those arriving mainly accidentally, such as invertebrates and pathogens.

As a consequence, Seebens et al. expect that the numbers of new alien species will continue to increase.

I have previously blogged about other studies that show continuing introductions of forest pests and other specific taxonomic groups.  See blogs about (1) 2014 IUCN report on invasive species threats to World Heritage sites; (2) IUCN analysis of red-book-listed species – causes of endangerment; (3) rate of new plant pests being detected in US; (4) Jung et al. on Phytophthoras in Europe; (5) Zamir’s critique of international the phytosanitary system; (6) Klapwjik et al. on European efforts to strengthen regulations governing movement of living plants; (7) ISPM#15 11th anniversary.

Other recent studies have also examined the bioinvasion situation for the whole Earth or major regions. Liebhold et al. 2016 studied insect assemblages in 20 regions around the world. They found that which insect orders are present in a particular region differs completely depending on whether one is looking at native or at nonindigenous assemblages. The authors believe that difference is largely caused by the varying probability that an insect taxon can take advantage of one or more high-volume invasion pathways – such as trade in agricultural products, movement of plants by international travelers, shipments of stored grain, trade in living plants, hitchhiking (e.g. on the outside of shipping containers) and wood packaging. Pathway association appeared to be more important than insects’ life-history traits, which affect their ability to establish in a new ecosystem.

Maartje J. Klapwijk and several colleagues note that growing trade in living plants and wood products has brought a rise in non-native tree pests becoming established in Europe. The number of alien invertebrate species has increased two-fold since 1950; the number of fungal species has increased four-fold since 1900.

Jung et al. (2015) studied the presence of Phytophthora pathogens in nurseries in Europe. They found

  • Two-thirds of the Phytophthora taxa detected in European nurseries by the present study were unknown to science before 1990.
  • None of the 59 putatively exotic Phytophthora taxa detected in the present study had been intercepted at European ports of entry.
  • Spread of the quarantine organism ramorum has not been halted despite the presence of strict quarantine regulations.

I will post a blog examining introduction rates for tree-killing insects and pathogens specifically in the near future. In the meantime, see the published studies listed below as well as my earlier blogs and fact sheets posted here .

Aukema, J.E., B. Leung, K. Kovacs, C. Chivers, K. O. Britton, J. Englin, S.J. Frankel, R. G. Haight, T. P. Holmes, A. Liebhold, D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle.. 2011. Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States PLoS One September 2011 (Volume 6 Issue 9)

Aukema, J.E., D.G. McCullough, B. Von Holle, A.M. Liebhold, K. Britton, & S.J. Frankel. 2010. Historical Accumulation of Nonindigenous Forest Pests in the Continental United States. Bioscience. December 2010 / Vol. 60 No. 11

Haack RA, Britton KO, Brockerhoff EG, Cavey JF, Garrett LJ, et al. (2014) Effectiveness of the International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 on Reducing Wood Borer Infestation Rates in Wood Packaging Material Entering the United States. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96611. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096611

Leung, B., M.R. Springborn, J.A. Turner, E.G. Brockerhoff. 2014. Pathway-level risk analysis: the net present value of an invasive species policy in the US. The Ecological Society of America. Frontiers of

Liebhold, A.M., T. Yamanaka, A. Roques, S. Augustin, S.L. Chown, E.G. Brockerhoff, P. Pysek. 2016.  Global compositional variation among native and nonindigenous regional insect assemblages emphasizes the importance of pathways. Biological Invasions (2016) 18:893–905

Lovett, G.M., M. Weiss, A.M. Liebhold, T.P. Holmes, B. Leung, K.F. Lambert, D.A. Orwig , F.T. Campbell, J. Rosenthal, D.G. McCullough, R. Wildova, M.P. Ayres, C.D. Canham, D.R. Foster, S.L. LaDeau, and T. Weldy. 2016. Nonnative forest insects and pathogens in the United States: Impacts and policy options. Ecological Applications, 0(0), 2016, pp. 1–19. DOI 10.1890/15-1176.1



Posted by Faith Campbell

We welcome comments that supplement or correct factual information, suggest new approaches, or promote thoughtful consideration. We post comments that disagree with us — but not those we judge to be not civil or inflammatory.


Collapse of funding for ALL aspects of EAB management (except biocontrol)

dead ash, Fairfax VA; FT Campbell

In the 25 years or more since it was introduced to North America, the emerald ash borer (EAB) has spread to portions of 27 states. and more widely across Quebec and Ontario. The U.S. quarantine area now covers 682,000 square miles. This has happened despite USDA APHIS spending more than $310 million (U.S.) and Canadian Food Inspection Service spending $25.7 million (Canadian).

The emerald ash borer has been a difficult insect to manage – it is cryptic, developing detection tools and management strategies required years of research and trial-and-error, it is easily transported to new areas in firewood. The beetle’s spread has been discouraging. However, now is not the time to give up! Large areas in which ash trees play significant roles in natural systems and planted areas are still outside the infested area. The tools and strategies can now be more effective in slowing further spread. Yet APHIS is now cutting funding for virtually all program components except biological control.

See the APHIS funding history below.

USDA APHIS Funding History for Emerald Ash Borer, FY 2003-2015
Fiscal Year appropriation Emergency funds from Commodity Credit Corporation Carryover (funds not spent in previous years) TOTAL
2003 0 $12,442,000 $0 $12,442,000
2004 $1,208,000 $39,879,000 $0 $41,087,000
2005 $4,937,000 $30,140,000 $0 $35,077,000
2006 $10,000,000 $15,000,000 $0 $25,000,000
2007 $6,777,149 $21,185,670 $0 $27,962,819
2008 $22,863,672 $8,884,802 $0 $31,748,474
2009 $34,625,000 $0 $0 $34,625,000
2010 $37,205,000 $0 $0 $37,205,000
2011 37,130,590 $0 $0 $37,130,590
2012 $9,727,000 $0 $15,000,000 $24,727,000
2013 $10,095,570 $0 $0 $10,095,570
2014 $8,999,000 $0 $0 $8,999,000
2015 $7,849,000 $0 $0 $7,849,000
TOTAL $207,166,000 $103,084,000   $310,200,000


Obviously, funding for the EAB program has fallen significantly. Nevertheless, funding for EAB continues to absorb a significant proportion of funding available for countering the full range of tree-killing pests. APHIS’ total funding for “tree and wood pests” is $54 million. Funding for this program is expected to decrease in the coming years – at the same time as the number of introduced pests continues to rise.

(Other programs funded under the “tree and wood pest” line item are the Asian longhorned beetle – which receives $35-40 million; and European gypsy moth – which receives $5-6 million. [Paul Chaloux, USDA APHIS, pers. comm. February 2017)

APHIS is actively considering ending the EAB regulatory program – which would allow the agency to reduce its costs significantly. (It is unclear whether APHIS would apply the money thus “saved” to other tree-killing pests. I have blogged frequently about pests that APHIS is not addressing.) APHIS would continue to support the biocontrol program.

Ending the regulatory program would probably speed up EAB’s arrival in those western states with significant ash resources. These include the northern Great Plains; the coastal mountains of Washington, Oregon, and California; and riparian areas of Utah and Arizona. For example, North Dakota has 78 million ash trees, which constitute half of trees in riparian woodlands and 60% of planted shelterbreaks.

A map showing areas of Oregon at risk is contained in my blog linked to above.  The APHIS website contains a continental map showing areas with significant ash tree populations.

APHIS has already cut funding for EAB provided through the Farm Bill Section 100007 program. In Fiscal Year 2016, EAB programs received $285,000 through this program. Half went to academics for study of oviposition hosts or attractants. This funding dropped to $91,000 in FY17. This year, the funding is almost exclusively to academics studying the effect of EAB density and tree condition on parasitism by one of the biocontrol agents.

APHIS has pledged to continue supporting work on biocontrol programs targetting emerald ash borer.



The USDA Forest Service is also reducing its engagement on EAB: Forest Health Protection allocated only $240,000 in 2016; Research allocated a little under $1.2 million. USFS funding history is provided in the table below. It can be argued that the USFS has provided the necessary guidance to state, city, and local officials in preparing for EAB decimation of ash trees under their jurisdiction.

However, it is important that USFS Research funding be maintained to support such long-term restoration strategies as resistance breeding.


USFS Funding on Emerald Ash Borer, FY 2009-2016

FY09 FY10 FY11 FY12 FY13 FY14 FY15 FY16
EAB $3.9 M $6.4 M $6.4M $4.1 M $2.8M $1.8M $1.7M 1.4M


Important projects are already not being funded; I blogged last year about the loss of funding for Dr. Pierluigi (Enrico) Bonello and others at Ohio State and Wright State University, who are trying to understand how Manchurian ash trees resist EAB attack.

Impact of EAB Deregulation — Whither Firewood Regulation?

If the federal EAB quarantine is eliminated, what will be the impact on federal and state efforts to discourage movement of firewood so as to protect the Nation from this and other pests?

EAB remains a threat to urban, rural, and wildland forests across the continent (including in Mexico) – and EAB continues to be moved in firewood. Furthermore, many other damaging insects and some pathogens can be transported in firewood.

Most of the state firewood regulations require a tie to specific pests – and EAB has been the principal species invoked. Can states maintain their regulations by anchoring them to other pests? Or based on the general threat? I hope so!

Deregulation of EAB seems likely to be the death knell for the APHIS effort to erect a nation-wide industry certification program for firewood. Certification already appears unlikely to be adopted; as I described in my blog in November), the costs of a certification program are higher than retailers are willing to support.

The educational messages recently placed on the website are likely to remain. These  alert campers making reservations at most National parks and many National forests to avoid moving firewood to slow the spread of tree-killing pests. These areas deserve continued protection. A full range of pests put them at risk, many of which are not regulated by APHIS, e.g., hemlock woolly adelgid and walnut twig beetle,


Posted by Faith Campbell

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