Leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Agriculture today wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the agency's current plans for ensuring the continued availability of the crop fumigant methyl bromide in the United States, and expressed concerns about the effect of a shortfall on the U.S. agriculture industry. In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, the United States has phased out widespread use of methyl bromide, subject to certain allowable exemptions for "critical uses" where there is no viable alternative available. In recent years, the United States has reduced by more than 90 percent its use of methyl bromide under the critical use exemption process. The members are seeking answers about what steps EPA is taking to ensure the availability of sufficient amounts of methyl bromide that continue to be needed by the American agricultural sector.
"For decades, methyl bromide was widely used in American agricultural applications including cultivation of tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, flowers, ornamentals, tree and vine crops, and for post-harvest pest control in mills, food storage and processing facilities, and it continues to be critically needed by our agricultural sector," wrote Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA).
They continued, "We are concerned that shortages of methyl bromide and viable methyl bromide alternatives will have a potentially devastating impact on growers in California, Florida, the southeastern United States, and other parts of the country, who have been attempting to transition to alternatives to methyl bromide. If this issue is not addressed, it will result in the offshoring of significant crop production to other countries, resulting in economic and job losses in the United States."