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A dairy farm in New England with a large cow barn, one tall silo and a mountain ridge in the background.

Dr. Julie SmithOpens a new window, research professor and veterinarian in the University of Vermont Department of Animal & Veterinary Sciences, has been awarded funding for two projects from the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response ProgramOpens a new window (NADPRP). NADPRP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. One project aims to improve emergency disease plan mapping for livestock and poultry farmers: the other addresses coordination of emergency disease response among state regulatory officials and dairy industry stakeholders. These projects build upon previous work led by Smith that supports regional foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness.

Emergency disease preparedness in U.S. animal agriculture means being ready for introductions of foreign animal diseasesOpens a new window. These are high risk diseases or pests that are not normally present in the U.S. For example, highly pathogenic avian influenza type A, subtype H5N1, is a foreign animal disease that has been affecting U.S. poultry flocks. Earlier in 2024, a variant of H5N1 emerged in dairy cows. On-farm biosecurity (disease prevention measures) can reduce the likelihood of spreading foreign or emerging animal diseases.

For farmers, preparedness for a foreign animal disease outbreak includes creating a Secure Food Supply PlanOpens a new window. The plan outlines procedures for implementing “enhanced” biosecurity measures, to help limit farm animal exposure to infection. The plans also pave the way for farmers to continue marketing their animals and animal products.

Mapping control points and critical areas of the farm is an important part of secure food supply planning, but it can be difficult to do. With prior funding from NADPRP, Smith’s team at the University of Vermont developed a web app prototype to simplify creating such a map. The new grant award will support “packaging” of the app as well as building in additional features and functionality, including visual accessibility.

“Demonstrations of the mapping app prototype were received with interest and excitement by industry and academic stakeholders. Its ease of use and consistency with Secure Food Supply plans makes it widely applicable across livestock and poultry industry sectors,” stated Smith.

Smith collaborated with state animal health and emergency disease response officials, industry groups, dairy cooperatives, and farmers for a previous project on regional secure food supply planning. The second new project being funded through NADPRP also takes a collaborative approach.

“The process of gathering various perspectives, considering how information is shared, and then developing potential strategies and solutions can improve emergency response to a foreign animal disease outbreak,” stated Smith. “These projects are intended to enhance animal disease emergency response planning in Vermont and the New England region.”

Both projects are made possible, in part, by Cooperative Agreements from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). They may not necessarily express APHIS’ views.

Joanna Cummings received a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), with a specialization in vegetable crop and greenhouse production. At PSU, she was a research technician on no-tillage vegetable crop experiments, and a greenhouse assistant in the All-American Selections Research Gardens. Her career in the agriculture industry includes field research, work with dairy and vegetable farms, and as a greenhouse manager, estate gardener, landscaper and market garden entrepreneur. She transitioned to the science communication field after receiving a master of science degree in environmental communications from Antioch University New England. At Antioch, Joanna was a field botany laboratory teaching assistant, manager of the herbarium, and editor of the department's student newsletter, Notes and Niches.

She currently works with Research Professor and Secure Food Supply New England Director Julie M. Smith as a communications professional in the University of Vermont Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department. She is the webmaster for the Secure Agriculture website.

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