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Letter to the Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture and to the Honorable Lisa Jackson, Administrator, EPA

Congressmen Roscoe Bartlett (R-6-MD) this week coordinated meetings with officials from the Agriculture Department (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as collaborated with Congressman Todd Platts (R-19-PA) to send a bipartisan letter from Members of Congress to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to spur immediate steps to limit damage to American farmers from the Asian stink bug, Halyomorpha halys or the brown marmorated stink bug. The 15 bipartisan House members wrote that "both farmers and our local economies face profound harm if we fail to take action; damage from this insect could prove to be a national crisis." Congressman Bartlett said, "My immediate goal has been met to reach agreement on a series of steps that will allow coordinated federal government assistance to combat the Asian brown marmorated stink bug during this year's fall harvest and next year's growing season. Swift action is needed to avert the potential of this invasive Asian stink bug to cause a plague for American agriculture of biblical proportions."

Text of the letter signed by eight Republicans and seven Democratic House members is attached. Key members who signed the letter include the Chairman and Ranking Members of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) and Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), Dennis Cardoza (CA-18), chairman of its Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, and fellow Maryland delegation members: Frank Kratovil (D-MD-2), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-2), Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5). The Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture has jurisdiction of USDA-APHIS. In addition to Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD-6) and Todd Russell Platts (R-PA-19), the complete list of 15 members who signed the letter includes: Shelley Capito (R-WV-2), Bill Shuster (R-PA-9), Frank Kratovil (D-MD-2), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-2), Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA-18), Charlie Dent (R-PA-15), Frank Lucas (R-OK-3), Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7), Collin Peterson (D-MN-7), Frank Wolf (R-VA-10), Peter Welch (D-VT-at large), Tim Holden (D-PA-17).

Congressman Bartlett organized a meeting last night with officials from USDA-APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss strategies to combat the Asian brown marmorated stink bug. Congressman Platts as well as staff from other interested members attended that meeting. As a result of this meeting, USDA-APHIS agreed to the urgent request by members in their letter "to fast track the re-classification of Halyomorpha halys from a non-regulated pest to one that is regulated."

Introduced to the U.S. from its native habitats in Asia in the mid-1990's, Halyomorpha halys damages all types of crops (apples, corn, soybeans, peaches, pears, watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, wine grapes, and more.) It is affecting silage, field corn including the stalk grown to feed dairy cows, and may damage dairy operations. Young trees such as sugar maples and other ornamentals are also damaged. While its greatest damage is currently occurring to crops in the mid-Atlantic region, Halyomorpha halys is fast moving. There are established populations in 15 states, with climates and agriculture as diverse as New Hampshire, Florida, Illinois and southern California. Specimens have been identified in 29 states.

Halyomorpha halys has no known natural predators in the United States. Its rapid spread, damage to so many different crops throughout the growing season, adaptation to diverse climates, and wintering in homes and other buildings has made control and eradication difficult. Existing plant protection products, pesticides and practices are only minimally effective because of the way the insect feeds.

To limit damage to American farmers and agriculture as a result of the dangerous characteristics of the Asian brown marmorated stink bug, the Members of Congress asked "that EPA evaluate existing plant protection tools and facilitate collaboration amongst the various federal research agencies, universities and private companies to ultimately facilitate the registration and/or emergency use of effective pesticides."

In response to this request by Members of Congress and in response to the meeting, after the re-classification of the brown marmorated stink bug as a regulated pest, USDA-APHIS will request EPA approval under Section 18 of the Federal Fungicide Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for permission for farmers to apply pesticides found to be effective at limiting damage to crops attacked by the stink bug during the 2011 growing season. Section 18 authorizes EPA to allow an unregistered use of a pesticide for a limited time if EPA determines that an emergency condition exists. EPA officials agreed to take preliminary actions in anticipation of receipt this Section 18 request from USDA-APHIS to facilitate its swift implementation.

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Administrator Jackson:

We request your assistance with a serious problem facing our national agriculture community: the invasive species the Halyomorpha halys, commonly known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. Both farmers and our local economies face profound harm if we fail to take action; damage from this insect could prove to be a national crisis. Just in the past few weeks, orchards in the Mid-Atlantic have discovered more than 50 percent crop
damage attributed to the stink bug, up from zero in past years.

Introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1990's, Halyomorpha halys damages all types of crops including apples, corn, soybeans, peaches, pears, watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, wine grapes, and more. It affects which in turn might affect the quality of milk from dairy cows. Young trees such as sugar maples and other ornamentals also incur damage. While its most profound damage is occurring in the mid-Atlantic region, the Halyomorpha halys is fast moving and now found in 29 states.

The Halyomorpha halys has no known predators in the United States. The mechanism by which it migrates has made control and eradication difficult, a situation which is exacerbated by its classification as an unregulated pest. Existing plant protection products are only minimally effective because of the way the insect feeds. The Halyomorpha halys uses its straw like structure to pierce the fruit or vegetable thereby avoids contact with plant protection products.

If we are to avoid future crop loss, it is crucial for government, industry and academia to collaborate both on research programs, and on control and eradication strategies. This collaboration is particularly important as it relates to the vital resources that can be brought to bear from the USDA and EPA. The lack of action by your department and agency respectively may result in a major national crisis.

In the long-term, critical research programs will need to be carried-out through USDA, state colleges of agriculture and the private sector. In the short term, however, we ask that the USDA fast track the re-classification of Halyomorpha halys from a non-regulated pest to one that is regulated.

Additionally, we request that resources be made available through APHIS to expand monitoring activities as well as control and eradication programs. Likewise, we ask that EPA evaluate existing plant protection tools and facilitate collaboration amongst the various federal research agencies, universities and private companies to ultimately facilitate the registration and/or emergency use of effective pesticides.

Time is of the essence. The goal is to marshal all available government resources to develop an effective control that can be implemented by next spring. Your cooperation is necessary and immediate action is imperative.

Sincerely,

Roscoe G. Bartlett (MD-6)
Todd Russell Platts (PA-19)
Shelley Capito (WV-2)
Bill Shuster (PA-9)
Frank Kratovil (MD-2)
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
Dennis Cardoza (CA-18)
Charlie Dent (PA-15)
Frank Lucas (OK-3)
Leonard Lance (NJ-7)
Collin Peterson (MN-7)
Frank Wolf (VA-10)
Peter Welch (VT-at large)
Tim Holden (PA-17)


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