SACRAMENTO—California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. and his staff briefed an audience of leading agricultural lenders on efforts to combat foot and mouth disease and Pierce’s disease. The June 5 session included presentations by State Veterinarian Dr. Richard E. Breitmeyer and Pierce’s Disease Control Program Statewide Coordinator Robert L. Wynn, Jr.
Representatives of California’s key agricultural lending institutions were joined by heads of farming and ranching associations and agricultural academia. The briefing included status reports on the diseases, as well as comprehensive descriptions of federal, state and local efforts and readiness.
“These diseases pose unprecedented threats to the livestock, grape, almond, and nursery industries in our state,” Secretary Lyons stated, “and we have mounted unprecedented preventive and responsive efforts. We are fortunate in California to have renowned experts on staff and eminent scientists within reach, and we have taken full advantage of their knowledge and experience. With the industry’s cooperation, we have elevated California agriculture’s state of readiness to the level warranted by these diseases.”
The highly contagious foot and mouth disease is the most devastating illness known to livestock. If just one animal in a herd is infected, the entire herd must be destroyed, and any other susceptible animals in the immediate vicinity must be destroyed as well. The last two outbreaks in the United States occurred in California in 1924 and 1929, leading to the loss of more than 100,000 animals.
Pierce’s Disease, which kills grape vines by clogging their water-conducting tissues with bacteria and by-products, has long been present in California, however at relatively low levels. The disease recently rose in prominence as an agricultural threat when the non-native glassy-winged sharpshooter, which transmits the disease much more rapidly than its native cousins, was detected in California. Similar diseases are caused by related strains of the bacteria in almond, peach and citrus trees, oleander, and other plants. With assistance and cooperation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local jurisdictions, the state has mounted a $20 million annual effort to detect and suppress sharpshooter populations and conduct research to cure or treat Pierce’s disease.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814