With the final passage of the state budget, California's agricultural industry is urging the Governor to sign two bills important to the effective control of invasive pests and providing additional measures to protect public health.
"Signing these bills into law will be an important step in the state's ability to continue to effectively and rapidly control damaging invasive pest species in this state while protecting the public and keeping them informed," says Ted Batkin, co-chairman of the Invasive Pest Coalition, a broad-based group of agricultural organizations formed to address the issue of invasive pests.
Batkin, who not only is chairman of the IPC but is also president of the California Citrus Research Board, is currently battling a particularly damaging insect known as Asian citrus psyllid which was recently detected in San Diego County and is threatening the state's important citrus crop.
In 2004, Cornell University researchers estimated that invasive pests cost the United States economy almost $250 billion per year. The USDA and the CDFA are working diligently to control the current onslaught of invasive pests in this state which threaten our health, crops, native plant species and waterways, like the citrus psyllid, zebra and quagga mussels, West Nile virus, oriental fruit fly and light brown apple moth. However, the public has reasonable concerns about the transparency of the government's control and eradication strategies which must be addressed.
Satisfactorily addressing these public concerns and increasing the transparency of control and eradication strategies is why the IPC strongly supports AB 2765 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D – 6th District) and AB 2763 by Assemblyman John Laird (D – 27th District).
The Huffman bill provides public input and disclosure of ingredients used to control or eradicate invasive pests while protecting the rapid response needed. Huffman's bill would also mandate the government conduct a public hearing to consider all alternatives if aerial applications are being considered as an eradication strategy as well as seek an evaluation of the public health and environmental impacts from health and environmental protection agencies. The bill also would require public notice to list the active ingredient and inert material in the pest control formulation to the extent the disclosure is permitted by law or voluntarily provided by the chemical's manufacturer.
Assemblyman Laird's bill establishes a public process for advance planning and preparation of invasive pest responses. This bill would mandate that CDFA identify all "high priority" pests, plants or animals for which either an eradication or control strategy would be necessary. It also requires that the Department of Public Health, the Department of Fish and Game, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the Department of Pesticide Regulation add their technical expertise when control or eradication strategies become necessary. Finally, the bill mandates that state officials conduct public hearings to share the assessments with the public and take their input.
"The IPC has been consistent in its goal of supporting well-funded, science-based approaches to identifying which invasive pests could pose a danger to California residents, farms and the environment," says Barry Bedwell, IPC co-chair and president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. "And, the IPC also wants to work cooperatively with government officials, local farmers and residents to ensure any eradication program is not only effective, but safe and environmentally friendly. Both AB 2765 and AB 2763 meet these key IPC objectives and we thank both Assemblyman Huffman and Assemblyman Laird for their efforts. Now we need the Governor's signature so these two bills can become law by January 1, 2009."
IPC Members Include: Agricultural Council of California, California Association of Winegrape Growers, California Avocado Commission, California Certified Organic Farmers, California Citrus Mutual, California Citrus Research Board, California Dried Plum Board, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, California Pear Advisory Board, California Strawberry Commission, California Table Grape Commission, California Tree Fruit Agreement, Western Pistachio Association, Western Growers Association and the Wine Institute.