- Author: Mark Bolda
I encourage readers of this blog to peruse the attached file, written by Margareta Lelea, a post-graduate researcher at UC Davis, with Frank Zalom, Jim Greishop and Jennifer Sedell. This study, funded by a Cooperative Agreement between the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and UC Davis, is a comparison of the emergency responses on the part of the USDA and CDFA (California Department of Agriculture) to the light brown apple moth (LBAM) and European grapevine moth (EGVM).
The experience of the LBAM emergency response was negative for many people on the Central coast of California. Seemingly dead set on the eradication of LBAM no matter what the cost, the USDA and the CDFA brooked very little community input as they attempted to put into place a program of aerial pheromone application accompanied by a quarantine regime composed of intrusive field inspections, disruption of farm business operations and costly field closures.
In contrast, the regulatory experience of EGVM emergency response was more positive for many (including me), and was a program which found its success in the working relationships between local regulatory officials, locally based USDA officials and agents (many of whom were already here for the LBAM program), UC Cooperative Extension and a diversity of other groups including growers and pest managers.
As one can draw from reading this report, that these two programs should have really different outcomes currently should then not be surprising.
The hugely unpopular LBAM emergency response program has had its budget virtually eliminated through the representative political process and has garnered a real distrust of the USDA and CDFA by the affected communities, which to some extent continues to this day.
LBAM continues to flourish on the Central Coast, although it still doesn’t cause a lot damage besides not being anything that can’t be managed easily with environmentally sensible methods. Nevertheless, LBAM still affects trade in a big way, the current situation being a threatened closure of our Canadian and Mexican export markets for berries or broccoli should LBAM arrive there in any shipment of either of these commodities.
In contrast, EGVM has been eradicated following its brief appearance in Santa Cruz County in 2011 and its numbers have been dramatically lowered in other infested areas such as Napa, Sonoma and the Central Valley.
The attached paper does a first class job in outlining and comparing LBAM and EGVM emergency responses and shows us what we and the regulatory agencies can learn from these two experiences to guide us in the future.
Some key takeaways from the paper:
1- Agencies lose credibility and trust from communities when they undertake actions against the will of the people. This the USDA and CDFA did in spades on the LBAM emergency response, pushing ahead while initially ignoring many community concerns about their activities and creating a perception of an abuse of science and government power.
2- Agencies gain credibility and trust through a willingness to engage and effect change, which includes responding to the needs of the communities and the environment and adapting new information from science as appropriate. This was clearly the case with EGVM, as USDA and CDFA agents (many of whom were also involved in LBAM programs) worked together with local regulators, UC Cooperative Extension and growers to arrive at a workable, successful solution to the issue.
3- Aerial spray programs must be enacted only with the support of affected communities.
I guess what I think about after reading through this report is how did the LBAM emergency response go so awry? Most of the USDA and CDFA people involved in the response are very competent, decent people who truly want to serve the public and the agricultural industry in the best possible way.
Have these agencies become bureaucracies, who, to quote the philosopher Ludwig von Mises, “are no longer eager to deal with each case to the best of their abilities; they are no longer anxious to find the most appropriate solution for every problem” and whose “main concern is to comply with the rules and regulations, no matter whether they are reasonable or contrary to what was intended."? I would today answer in the negative, because even if the USDA and CDFA started out behaving as the bureaucracies described by von Mises, they both seem to have learned from their experience and turned the corner pretty promptly. Indeed, that both seemed to undergo pretty well a paradigm shift in their approach on the EGVM emergency response just a few years later after the difficult start on LBAM is a testament to their ability to learn and evolve to best serve the publics who have entrusted them to keep invasive pests out of California.
Kudos to a really thought provoking and illuminating report by Dr. Lelea and her colleagues about two signal invasive pest responses. A must read for entomologists, regulators and pest managers on the Central Coast.
- Author: Mark Bolda
Good news to start the New Year for Santa Cruz County growers:
This directly from Mary Lou Nicoletti, Agricultural Commissioner for Santa Cruz County:
"Effective December 21, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture declared the European Grapevine Moth to be eradicated from Santa Cruz County. Our county is no longer under quarantine."
Not too much to add to this, but getting to this point was a real team effort on the part of regulators, researchers and growers. And I am quite glad that we have one less pest to deal with here for now.