In order to better protect U.S. agriculture, economy, and rural and urban communities from increasing global infectious diseases and pathogen threats, Texas A&M AgriLife and Texas A&M Division of Research hosted a consortium of universities, state animal health officials, private sector organizations and federal government representatives for a two-day meeting. The goal of the meeting was to identify priority gaps that require collaborative research and practical solutions.
The group included the Coalition for Epi Response, Engagement, and Science (CERES) which is a consortium of land grant universities including Colorado State University, the University of California Davis, Kansas State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. CERES works to integrate the strengths and assets of these universities and stakeholders to create new opportunities, ideas and practices through collaborative engagement.
From genomics to vector-borne diseases to laboratories and our borders, the topics examined covered the most prevalent issues facing infectious disease outbreaks in animals and plants. Discussions included topics on transboundary animal disease threats to U.S. agriculture, U.S. -border agriculture inspections, wildlife-vector-livestock dynamics, and workforce development needs. Tick-borne diseases such as babesiosis and African Swine Fever all showcased how attendees worked together.
“Producers appreciate the collaboration and communication with these entities for research, preparedness and response efforts for disease control,” said Lisa Becton, director of Swine Health Information and Research, National Pork Board.
“We are honored to work with those who are most directly impacted by animal and plant diseases and those who work daily to keep transboundary pathogens and threats from entering the U.S.,” said Patrick Stover, Ph.D., vice-chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “This is a team effort, no one group can do this on our own. This teamwork requires basic and applied research, training and innovative solutions to meet today’s and future needs. We are, quite simply, stronger together.”
Mark A. Barteau, vice president for research at Texas A&M University, said the consortium’s meeting aligns well with the university’s strategy for combatting outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. “As a Tier One research institution that is heavily invested in this field, our goal is to address the diseases that pose the gravest threat to Texas public health and to our state’s $100 billion agricultural economy,” Barteau said. “We are dedicated to developing advanced countermeasures to these pathogens and to preparing the next generation of scientists and early responders to deal with outbreaks in the lab and in the field.”
Meeting participants included animal health companies, livestock associations, state animal health officials, extension, federal research and animal health entities, laboratories and research facilities. The group used the meeting to highlight successful current collaborations and to create focused “next steps” for collaborative action on how to better prevent, plan and respond to infectious disease threats.
One of the most important aspects of the meeting included collaborations with agricultural organizations such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, the National Pork Board, the National Milk Producers Federation, the American Feed Industry Association, the Texas Animal Health Commission and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agriculture Research Service and United States Customs and Border Protection.
“Effective disease prevention and eradication programs are based on sound science,” said Andy Schwartz, D.V.M, executive director of theTexas Animal Health Commission Executive Director and state veterinarian. “Research is a tool that creates and fosters new, alternative, and improved methods for fighting and protecting Texas livestock from both emerging disease threats, such as African Swine Fever, and historical diseases and pests such as bovine tuberculosis and cattle fever ticks.”
The CERES consortium plans to work together on projects to address priority gaps discussed during the meeting and to continue discussions with the wide range of stakeholders in U.S. agriculture and those involved in efforts to protect this sector so vital to our nation’s economy, food security and the global community.