Facing federal warnings that this summer's stink bug invasion will be the worst ever, House lawmakers have OK'd a bill demanding that the Agriculture Department make the bug Public Pest No. 1 and speed efforts to kill it.
On Thursday, the House included language in a spending bill that directs Agriculture to prioritize ways to combat stink bugs, poised to wreak disaster in the nation's fruit and vegetable fields later this summer. The stink bug has reached 39 states.
"Whether you have a home herb garden or acres of farmland, we can all agree that the pervasive problem of stink bug infestation needs to be tackled head-on," said Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf, the plan's sponsor. "The apple industry in the Mid-Atlantic states has lost tens of millions of dollars to these pests, and they threaten the vineyards that are an important part of Virginia's economy," he said.
Wolf has become a leader on the issue because his district is ground zero for the bug mistakenly imported a decade ago from Asia. Apple, peach and grape growers in his district bordered by the Shenandoah Valley have been begging for help. The Agriculture Department is developing bug traps and studying an Asian bee that destroys stink bug eggs.
Wolf called the new language "a step in the right direction to research ways to control stink bugs, protect our crops and preserve the local economy."
The language in the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill directs four agencies within the USDA to continue their efforts in researching ways to minimize the damage stink bugs have on crops in 39 states and the District of Columbia. The language also directs the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to assist with implementing biological control technology to control the pests once it is developed.