Emergency funding granted to battle SLF

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced $17.5 million in emergency funding to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“We’ve seen a dramatic expansion in the range of this pest over the last year and we need to take decisive action to prevent the spotted lanternfly from spreading throughout Pennsylvania and into neighboring states,” Perdue said in a press release. “We have the tools to fight this invasive insect and — together with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture — we have developed an area-wide approach that will begin before the pest starts to re-emerge in the spring.”

The spotted lanternfly, with its distinctive and colorful wings, was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2014. The affected area expanded from 174 square miles in fiscal year 2016 to approximately 3,000 square miles by the end of FY 2017.

“I am pleased to see USDA acting quickly on the invasive spotted lanternfly, which is wreaking havoc on Pennsylvania’s agricultural producers and landowners in 13 counties,” Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Howard, said in the release. “This pest is a threat to apples, grapes, peaches, stone fruits and various tree species throughout Pennsylvania. These funds will go a long way in helping the commonwealth treat, gather data and perform the coordination needed to contain the spread of this devastating threat. I thank Secretary Perdue and USDA for its commitment to combatting this destructive and invasive pest so we can hopefully eradicate it for good.”

“This is an immediate and timely solution for my constituents in southeastern Pennsylvania, whose farms and daily lives have been impacted by the spotted lanternfly,” Rep. Ryan Costello, R-West Chester, said in a press release. “I have heard their concerns and have been working with my colleagues and the USDA to increase funding for combatting this pest. This announcement means we will now have funds for coordinated treatments, outreach to farmers and others who have been impacted, and for detection surveys that will result in critical data. Thank you to the USDA and Secretary Perdue for his focus on solving an issue that is important to so many Pennsylvanians.”

This emergency funding, which was made available through existing Commodity Credit Corporation balances, will allow for a two-pronged approach with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service managing the outer perimeter of the infestation and PDA focusing on a 3-mile perimeter surrounding the core infested area. The goal of this expanded surveillance and control program is to stop the leading edge of the infestation and start pushing it inward while at the same time reducing the density of spotted lanternfly populations in the core-infested area.

In addition to emergency activities in Pennsylvania, APHIS is planning to use existing resources to conduct surveys, and control measures if necessary, in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia, where there is growing concern about the potential spread of SLF.

“Since the spotted lanternfly was first detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania, we have benefitted from strong community involvement and support,” Perdue said. “Continued outreach and education will be critical to the success of our ongoing efforts. We need the help of producers, businesses and the public to look for this pest and take actions to control it.”

USDA and PDA’s cooperative efforts will help protect Pennsylvania’s agricultural and forested lands from the damaging effects of the spotted lanternfly, which feeds on more than 70 types of plants and secretes a sticky residue on leaves that can lead to the growth of sooty mold fungus affecting overall plant health.