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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

LBAM Effort Downgraded

Following in the footsteps of the federal government, the state of California has decided to focus on controlling the spread of the light brown apple moth rather than eradicating it. On Tuesday the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the policy shift along with its plans not to pursue aerial spraying of pesticide. Instead, the department intends to use ground-based measures and sterile moths.

Vindicating critics of the moth abatement plan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined last week that attempts to eradicate the pest were futile and that it would settle for controlling it. But USDA officials rejected requests to downgrade the threat status of the moth, which has driven all the eradication activity up to this point, and say they'll continue to quarantine areas where the pest is found.

That means Santa Cruz County and all or parts of 16 other California counties will remain under a quarantine that requires inspectors to clear agricultural products before shipment out of the area. John Eiskamp, president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, said he wasn't surprised officials decided not to pursue eradication. "I felt it was beyond eradication, especially the way they were trapped last year," Eiskamp said. In 2009, 43,347 light brown apple moths were trapped in Santa Cruz County, up from 11,095 in 2007, according to state figures. The number of moths trapped statewide has grown from 16,812 in 2007 to 203,986 last year. The light brown apple moth was first trapped in California in 2006 in a Berkeley backyard. The greatest populations last year were in Santa Cruz and San Francisco counties.

Eiskamp said the moth can be controlled, but the challenge for county growers, especially those who grow organic produce, will be meeting the quarantine standard of zero moths. "One find and your whole field is lost," he said. Eiskamp said it's the quarantine, not the moth, that's caused economic losses. He said the moth was found in three area berry ranches last year. "One or two of those ranches didn't produce anything the rest of the season, and it took time to get the third field cleaned up," Eiskamp said.

While many large growers support the quarantine, since trading partners in other countries might then stop buying California produce or implement quarantines of their own with varying rules, it is especially onerous to smaller farms, growing for the local market. The federal quarantine itself is under review however. USDA will be accepting comments from the public until May 15, 2010. In order to have your voice heard on this issue, please visit the government's comment page.

Read more about this latest twist in the LBAM saga at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 12:59 PM

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