Diseases and pest infestations are a constant worry in agriculture. With many in D.C. swearing off “earmarks” how can funds needed to fight an outbreak be secured?

“Within APHIS, particularly, we invest roughly $1 billion a year in a variety of efforts to eradicate, prevent or mitigate the impact of pests, invasive species and diseases,” said Vilsack. At the same time, we’re also focusing a significant amount of our research dollars on additional research in these areas.”

What the USDA attempts is to “make an informed judgment on what is the best strategy for dealing with a particular pest or disease. There are times when our work is successful – which means we can reallocate or redirect resources to a particular disease or pest causing a significant problem. We’ve had some success with screwworm, some success with some cotton pests.”

On the flipside, “we see the gypsy moth and the grapevine moth that are causing problems and issues. So, we may have to redirect resources to address those.

“There may be circumstances where we thought eradication was the best (approach) but isn’t working well. Maybe we should be minimizing the impact of one disease and taking resources and directing (them) to something where we can have even greater success.”

Vilsack doesn’t believe it “necessarily requires a member of Congress to specifically earmark something that goes into their district. The earmarks we’re talking about eliminating are essentially building projects – some of which may very well be very, very important for the government to have. But it ought to be discussed in the context of a national need not necessarily just as a congressional district’s need.”