As the United States government begins its partial shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has begun to temporarily cease its nonessential operations. Certain activities will continue as they are financed through user fees or trust funds, while others are considered essential services, APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea announced in an email on October 1.
Activities essential to ensuring continued public health and safety, will resume, the agency stated. Among those are:
- Operations at the APHIS' Safety and Security Unit, which provides oversight and technical consultation on all environmental, health, safety and security issues for employees of the National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa. A core Safety and Security Unit staff will be maintained to address any safety and security issues that may arise.
- Border and coastal protection initiatives, including agricultural quarantine, inspection and surveillance activities that prevent the introduction to animal and plant disease or pests into the country.
- Protection and maintenance of APHIS facilities, including the National Centers for Animal Health, the National Wildlife Research Center and its field stations, and the Center for Plant Health Science and Technology.
- Emergency and disaster assistance: Minimal staffing will be maintained to be aware of potential instances of foreign animal diseases. Laboratory personnel will be available to run tests on samples associated with foreign animal disease investigations, and at the beginning of the period, to close out pending lab tests.
- Activities needed to maintain protection of research property. This includes APHIS' National Wildlife Research Center's scientists, who develop wildlife damage management methods to reduce threats to human health and safety, as well as to care for animals being studied at the National Wildlife Research Center, National Veterinary Services Laboratories and the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Lab personnel will also be available to suitably store lab samples.