The United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has proclaimed April 2018 as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. The goal of IPPDAM is to: increase public awareness of invasive species; provide tips to prevent their spread; and, encourage residents to report signs of them. Today we highlight USDA’s Heather Coady. Ms. Coady, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) employees like her, assist other countries in their pest control efforts by working to stop pests at the source.
I’m lucky that my career allows me to mix two of my passions – the travel bug and protecting our country against invasive pests. My passion for travel started 20 years ago when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. A few years later, I began learning about invasive pests when I worked on the Asian Longhorned Beetle program. I directly saw the effects that an invasive species has in the environment. As I moved through my career at APHIS, I worked at a Plant Inspection Station, intercepting pests before they entered the U.S. I am currently stationed in the Netherlands as part of our preclearance program. I work to keep pests from being imported, working directly with our National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) counterparts, growers and exporters.
Preclearance is the first line of defense for the U.S. -- addressing pest risks offshore. I manage eight different preclearance programs: in Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, the UK (England and Scotland), Israel, Turkey, Belgium and France. I love that I get to see the plants growing in the field before harvest. I talk with the growers and the NPPO inspectors in person and find out how the season has been, the weather, their challenges – all in real time. If we see a problem, we can help them figure out what to do right now to ensure that their plants will meet APHIS’ standards and can enter the U.S. pest and disease free.