The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been granted $2.29 million through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) Farm Bill program. This funding aims to bolster APHIS' efforts in animal health preparedness. The 2018 Farm Bill allocated resources to this program as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent the entry of animal pests and diseases into the United States while mitigating the spread and impact of potential disease outbreaks.
The significance of NAHLN funding cannot be understated when it comes to protecting the nation's food supply from threats posed by foreign and domestic animal diseases. The National Pork Producers Council, while emphasizing the importance of the "three-legged stool" of animal health (which includes NAHLN, the NAVVCB or 'vaccine bank,' and NADPRP), highlights the critical role of NAHLN in enhancing diagnostic testing capabilities for endemic and high-consequence pathogens affecting livestock and poultry. These laboratories serve as the frontline defense in detecting and identifying animal diseases and pathogens.
NAHLN operates as a network of veterinary diagnostic laboratories, comprising federal, state, and university-associated facilities. This network provides ongoing disease surveillance, rapid response to disease events, communication of diagnostic outcomes to decision makers, and the capacity to meet diagnostic needs during animal disease outbreaks. Since its inception, NAHLN has expanded from 12 AAVLD (American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians) laboratories to 60 AAVLD laboratories across the country, capable of testing large numbers of samples for specific disease agents.
According to Jenny Lester Moffitt, Under Secretary for USDA's Marketing and Regulatory Programs, the recent funding awards derived from the Farm Bill will enhance their ability to carry out strategies for animal health emergency preparedness, ultimately safeguarding the agricultural industry. Moffitt further emphasizes that the more prepared the country is in protecting its agricultural commodities, the safer the food supply becomes for Americans and the rest of the world.
The NAHLN funding will support crucial projects aimed at expanding disease testing capacity through stockpiling efforts, improving data management via IT standardization, and increasing high-throughput testing through the incorporation of diagnostic instruments and technical expertise within laboratories, as outlined by the USDA.
In the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak, these laboratories serve as the frontline defense by promptly diagnosing and determining the extent of the outbreak, thereby minimizing the impact on producers. As stated by the USDA, their swift actions and expertise play a vital role in mitigating the consequences of such outbreaks and protecting the agricultural industry.