International Trade

Bugs in the Box

In 1996 the Asian Longhorn Beetle was responsible for millions of dollars in damage and destruction to maples, elm, horse chestnut, and willow trees in Brooklyn and the greater New York area. By 1998 a second infestation was discovered in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The Asian Longhorn, native to China and other Asian countries, was now threatening the mass destruction of trees almost seven thousand miles away. It was inconceivable! How could this happen? Where did it come from? How did the beetle manifest itself in the United States? In its native China this pest had been responsible for widespread damage and death to hybrid poplar plantations, hi-grade trees grown for lumber and furniture wood. In order to salvage some of the harvest, tainted lumber was used to manufacture shipping pallets, pallets that came into the high volume ports of New York and Chicago with your apparel and holiday toys literally on its back. Manifest indeed, Merry Christmas! Well, once the USDA, more specifically the APHIS Unit (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), discovered the cause of the infestation; mandatory requirements for treating wooden pallets were put into place. In September of 1998 customs changed its ruling on packing material from China by requiring all wood to be treated or kiln-dried to prevent further infestation. As a result of stricter control, there were no further incidents of imported larvae in packing material. But the damage had already been done. In all, over 1,500 trees in Chicago were cut down and over 23,000 trees in New York and New Jersey had to be destroyed in order to stop the spread of the beetle. APHIS has even developed poplar strains, which resist infestation. As of last year the Asian Longhorn Beetle has been eradicated from Boston, Chicago, the greater New York City Area and all of New Jersey. Securing our borders from inbound health risks. Protecting our borders from pests is important to our ecology, but it is also important to the health and safety of our citizens. At the same time APHIS was eradicating Asian beetles, they were lifting a 14-year ban on Argentinean beef. In 2001 the U.S. Government closed our borders after it was discovered that beef cattle in Argentina contained strains of the virus that causes Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Fearing contamination, the USDA took steps to protect American Beef and Dairy Cattle, as we had not had an outbreak since the late 1920s. It is rare for humans to become ill from FMD, except in cases of close contact with infected animals. This highly contagious bug however is responsible for mass quarantine and in many cases the eradication of infected animals. The economic effects on dairy and meat production can be devastating to livestock producers. Careful monitoring by the USDA has paid off. The increased availability of beef for export combined with lower prices and a weak dollar has contributed to a potential export volume of 2.6 billion pounds through next year. This January APHIS updated its HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) Preparedness and Response Plan. The 2015 migration through Alaska of wild Asian birds infected with HPAI cost the American tax payer over $950 million for the disposal of over 49 million commercially raise birds including turkeys and meat and egg producing chickens. USDA’s ongoing monitoring of worldwide bird influenza helps protect American exporters. Turkey production for example is expected to reach 6.1 billion pounds in 2017 and export conditions are once again favorable for American poultry producers.
When Americans travel The 2016 Summer Olympic Games pose an interesting problem for our health officials. This year the Zika virus threatens American citizens at home and abroad. Current outbreaks in the United States have been confined to Miami; Rio de Janeiro however has been identified as a potential health risk from mosquitoes, which may carry the virus. Our athletes and spectators returning from the games could inadvertently spread the virus to other cities. The U.S. Olympic Committee is taking the threat very seriously. A taskforce set up in March has been monitoring outbreaks and taking extra steps to reduce travel to infection prone areas. Longer fuller uniforms were ordered for contestants to reduce unnecessary skin exposure and comprehensive testing will be carried out throughout the games and after athletes and visitors return home. Particular attention is being paid to pregnant women and anyone who exhibits potential symptoms. There are an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 spectators at the games this week. With travelers departing Rio for worldwide destinations, the question is, does the city lie on the fringe of infection or at the heart of it?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


Contact Author

© Copyright 1999–2024 American Journal of Transportation. All Rights Reserved