Medfly infestation close to U.S. border - The Packer

Medfly infestation close to U.S. border

09/23/2004 12:00:00 AM
Gabrielle Kirkland

The pest has been found 6½ miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

(Sept. 23) SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Federal and state resources are being poured into a major Mediterranean fruit fly infestation in Mexico less than 7 miles from the U.S. border.

So far, the pest is confined to Mexico. Officials discovered the infestation Sept. 15 in Tijuana 6½ miles south of California, said Larry Hawkins, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Impact to domestic produce supplies isn’t a factor at this point although some 250 crops — commercial and backyard — are threatened by the pest and its produce-eating larvae.

The U.S. is concentrating its efforts into the infestation because of the threat it has to U.S. crops, particularly in California and Arizona.

Crops just inside California include cucumbers, limes, strawberries, tomatoes and zucchini.

“The bulk of the crops are the cucumber and squash and are within about 5 miles of the border,” said Dawn Nielsen, San Diego deputy agricultural commissioner.

“This is as serious as I can recall,” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter, about the pest threat.

Nelsen said this could have a huge economic impact on both the agricultural industry and state’s finances.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is taking appropriate action with the situation, but there is a need to make sure the funds are available to support these efforts, Nelsen said.

“It is a two-fold effort, first to eradicate the pest and second to control contraband coming across the border,” he said.

“The Medfly is a serious threat to agriculture,” said A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the CDFA, in a news release. “We must act quickly to continue to ensure a safe, secure food supply.”

An infestation could decimate California’s produce industry. An infestation could cost nearly $2 billion because of increased pesticide use, job loss, crop loss and trade embargoes in treating the establishment of the Medfly, according to the CDFA.

Hawkins said Mexican officials are implementing an infestation protocol that is similar to the program U.S. follows in such a case.

The CDFA is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the San Diego County agricultural commissioner’s office, the Mexican national agricultural agency (SAGARPA) and the Baja California Department of Agriculture.

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