The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

24 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL APHIS’ compact cadre of FSOs are on the front lines keeping American agricultural trade healthy, flowing and growing around the globe. BY KAREN S L I TER AND RUSSE L L DUNCAN Small butMighty APHISTurns 50 Karen Sliter, DVM, is a veterinarian and diplomat who, with her husband, four daughters and a variable assortment of up to four cats, three horses and two dogs, served in the APHIS Foreign Service for nearly 30 years before retiring as Career Minister in 2021. In her current position at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, she continues to “translate the science” and work toward creating a world we all want to live in and leave to our children. Russell Duncan, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is currently posted in Tokyo. He served as APHIS Representative to the AFSA Governing Board in 2021. COVER STORY T his month, U.S. Department of Agricul- ture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspec- tion Service—an 8,000-strong agency that safeguards U.S. agriculture from foreign pests and diseases—celebrates its 50th anniversary. Playing a critical role in the festivities will be the APHIS Foreign Service, a small but mighty team of some 30 FSOs working in 28 countries with about 300 locally employed staff. This compact cadre might not be a policy kingpin at country teammeetings, but it punches far above its weight in helping to keep American agriculture and trade healthy, ensuring our country’s economic viability, safeguarding our food security and sustainability, and controlling diseases that can affect plants, animals and humans. APHIS FSOs have a unique “dual career” profession. In addi- tion to being skilled professional diplomats, they must also be technical specialists in such areas as veterinary medicine, plant pathology, entomology and biology. Their jobs can cover myriad activities: conducting formal and informal trade negotiations, communicating APHIS biotechnology policies, serving on inter- national scientific committees and strategic groups for organiza- tions such as the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, and reporting on plant and animal pests and diseases (including zoonotic diseases that pass from animals to humans, such as COVID-19). Ultimately, an APHIS FSO’s work affects everything from the availability and price of grapes in U.S. supermarkets in January to which foreign markets are open for the approximately $150 billion of U.S. agricultural exports, and whether the outbreak of a significant plant or animal pest or disease that could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage on U.S. soil can be prevented. So, the next time you are seated next to an APHIS col- league at a country teammeeting, take another look. Our work has a greater impact on American life and prosperity than you might have known! The USDA before APHIS The APHIS Foreign Service embodies USDA’s longtime com- mitment to ensuring that foreign pests and diseases do not harm American agriculture or trade—a goal the department vigorously pursued well before it created APHIS in 1972. A notable example is the fight against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), a deadly livestock illness that was eradicated from the United States in