Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has transferred $15.5 million from the USDA Commodity Credit Corp. to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to help halt the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, or sudden oak death, to non-infested areas of the United States.

"These funds will enhance our efforts to control Sudden Oak Death," said Veneman. "This disease already has killed large numbers of oak and tanoak trees in the coastal counties of California."

APHIS will launch a national survey to determine if sudden oak death is causing disease symptoms on hosts and associated hosts in other parts of the United States. This survey results from the confirmation of this disease in March on several varieties of Camellia plants in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

APHIS officials will apply the funding to nursery inspection, sampling and testing and sudden oak death education and outreach. More than 100 nurseries in 13 states received infected plants from one nursery in southern California.

To help address the evolving disease situation in California, APHIS will provide $6.9 million of this emergency funding to the state for quarantine activities and identification of infected nurseries. This funding also will be used to enforce APHIS' current federal order to prevent the further spread of the disease to other nurseries in the United States.

The remaining $8.6 million will be used for surveys, other quarantine and regulatory enforcement, public outreach and laboratory diagnostics and testing.

Sudden oak death was first seen in Mill Valley, Calif., on tanoak in 1995. The fungus is known now to exist in 13 northern California counties and in Curry County, Ore. In February 2002, APHIS quarantined nurseries in those counties and began regulating the interstate movement of P. ramorum hosts and associated articles. APHIS officials issued an emergency order in April 2004 restricting interstate movement of all California nursery stock.