Service Recommended to Change Approach to Animal Health

US - The conclusions of a new report calls on the USDA's animal health agency to develop goals to manage livestock and poultry diseases using control methods other than eradication.
calendar icon 12 June 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled 'Homeland Security - An Overall Strategy Is Needed to Strengthen Disease Surveillance in Livestock and Poultry' to Congressional Requesters, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has long carried out important work to protect the nation’s livestock and poultry against economically devastating infectious diseases and against the potential deadly effects of such diseases on people.

In the conclusions of the report, GAO states that foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has not infected cattle or swine in the United States since 1929, and pseudorabies and brucellosis have been virtually eradicated in commercial swine and cattle. The near elimination of tuberculosis is considered one of the greatest animal and public health achievements in the United States.

Moreover, given the changing disease landscape, APHIS has begun to craft a more comprehensive approach to monitoring animal health - one no longer restricted to eradicating only certain diseases.

GAO commends the agency for its efforts:

  1. to develop a vision for its new approach and planning documents for undertaking it and
  2. to collect better data from new and different sources and better synthesise and analyse information to identify potentially harmful new pathogens earlier.

Nevertheless, APHIS has not to date developed goals or performance measures for its new approach, according to GAO; agency officials said they have plans to do so but they did not provide a time frame.

Even with its efforts to date, however, without integrating the vision in its planning documents into an overall strategy with associated goals and measures that are aligned with broader national homeland security efforts to detect biological threats, APHIS may not be ideally positioned to support national efforts to address the next threat to animal and human health, according to the GAO report.

GAO's Recommendations for Executive Action

As APHIS develops goals and measures for its new approach to disease surveillance in livestock and poultry, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Agriculture direct the APHIS Administrator to integrate the agency’s vision into an overall strategy, with associated goals and measures, that guides how APHIS’s new approach will support national homeland security efforts to enhance the detection of biological threats.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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