Scientists estimate the total economic cost of all invasive species to be approximately $120 billion annually, leading the USDA on Thursday to pledge $48.1 million as approved in the 2014 Farm Bill to projects aimed at preventing the introduction or spread of invasive pests.
USDA views the funding as an opportunity to control damage and ensure food security.
"The funds USDA is making available today will help partners and stakeholders develop strategies, products and treatments to safeguard our farms and natural resources from invasive threats," Vilsack explained in a statement.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service sought project suggestions from states and U.S. territories, universities, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private companies and tribal organizations that would provide a direct impact in managing pests and diseases, as well as disaster prevention, selecting 383 projects in 49 states, Guam and Puerto Rico for funding.
A sampling of the funded projects include:
• $2 million for protection against exotic fruit flies in California;
• $270,907 to survey and analyze adult honey bee samples collected from apiaries across multiple U.S states and Puerto Rico for pests and diseases, such as the Varroa virus;
• $290,000 to the Nez Perce Tribe Bio-control Project involving noxious/invasive weed survey and control activities;
• $224,894 for the National Plant Board to develop a harmonized national systems approach to nursery certification that enhances existing state programs to reduce the risk of plant pests in nursery stock
Prospective projects were evaluated by USDA based on several criteria, including the projects' efforts in: enhancing plant pest/disease analysis and survey; targeting domestic inspection activities at vulnerable points in the safeguarding continuum; enhancing and strengthening pest identification and technology; safeguarding nursery production; enhancing mitigation capabilities; conducting outreach and education about these issues.
The teams also evaluated submissions based on expected impacts of the project, the technical approach, and how submissions would complement ongoing USDA programs and other previously funded projects funded under the 2008 Farm Bill.
The USDA also on Thursday declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, while the Weed Science Society of America earlier this year championed a National Invasive Species Awareness week in February.