WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The United Nations (UN) declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) in an effort to combat the introduction and spread of invasive pets.

According to the UN, plants are under attack from invasive pests that destroy up to 40% of the world’s crops and cause $220 billion in trade losses each year.

The UN is asking people, organizations, industries, scientists, and governments to work together to protect plants against the introduction and spread of invasive pests. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) is leading the effort in the United States.

“At USDA, we do all we can for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers so that they can continue to feed and clothe this nation and the world,” said Greg Ibach, Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA. “That’s why we’re urging everyone to take this issue seriously and to do their part. Protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than the alternative.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that agricultural production must rise by 60% by 2050 in order to feed a larger population.

PPQ is the United States’ national plant protection organization, that defends the country against invasive plant pests and diseases and works to make global agricultural trade safe, fair, and predictable.

“For all the professionals who devote their lives to protecting plant health, the United Nations just put our mission on the global stage,” said Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator of the USDA’s PPQ program. “This is an extraordinary year for telling our story to the world.”

PPQ said its mission for IYPH is to help raise awareness that plant health is crucial for all life on Earth and emphasize the vital role that national and regional plant health organizations play in protecting plants from deadly pests and diseases.