Safeguarding our Nation’s agriculture and natural resources against harmful plant pests is an awesome responsibility, one we take very seriously. Thanks to USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) employees, cooperators, and partners, the United States has one of the most robust plant health safeguarding systems in the world. That is because we continuously take steps to enhance our ability to exclude, control, and eradicate pests and increase the safety of agricultural trade. This year, we introduced 10 strategic initiatives for 2018 and beyond that will further advance every aspect of our mission. You will learn more about them and our progress in our 2018 annual report.
You will also learn about our many successes and accomplishments in 2018. For example, we continued to push the U.S. line of defense against invasive pests and diseases farther offshore, allowing us to take action against pests hitchhiking on or in imported goods before they reached our borders. At ports of entry, we advanced the use of data-driven sampling strategies and cutting-edge technologies to better focus inspections on the riskiest shipments and more quickly and accurately detect pests that physical inspection alone would miss. The need for these critical technologies has never been greater, given the fact that we cleared a record-breaking 1 billion plants through our Miami inspection station alone in 2018.
Across the country, we worked with the States and other partners to detect, contain, and when possible, eradicate invading pests. I am proud of the many successes we had this year, including declaring the Asian longhorned beetle eradicated from three Ohio townships and eradicating exotic fruit flies from five quarantine areas in California and four in Texas. Our crowning achievement came in October when we declared all cotton-producing areas of the continental United States free of pink bollworm, marking the end of a 101-year-old battle with one of the world’s most damaging cotton pests.
On the world stage, we worked closely with our international trading partners to develop and promote science-based standards, helping to create a safe, fair, and predictable agricultural trade system that minimizes the spread of invasive plant pests and diseases. We also reached critical plant health agreements and resolved plant health barriers to trade to open, expand, and retain U.S. export markets valued at nearly $23 billion. And, we issued 699,900 phytosanitary certificates, helping U.S. producers meet foreign market access requirements and secure economic opportunities for U.S. products abroad.
These successes, and the many achievements captured in our 2018 annual report, underscore how PPQ is working every day to keep U.S. agriculture healthy and profitable.
I am grateful to the talented men and women of PPQ and their deep commitment to our mission. I am also thankful for our partners, without whom none of this would be possible. We look forward to working with each of you in the years ahead as we continue to safeguard American agriculture against invasive pests and facilitate the safe trade of agricultural products.
PPQ Deputy Administrator