07.21.16

SCHUMER REVEALS: IF APPLES FROM POLAND ARE IMPORTED TO UPSTATE NY, IT COULD MEAN DISASTER FOR FINGER LAKES ORCHARDS; POLISH APPLES COULD CARRY INVASIVE SPECIES? THAT COULD SERIOUSLY DAMAGE NEW YORK’S ORCHARDS FOR GENERATIONS; SENATOR CALLS ON USDA TO IMMEDIATELY HALT PLANS FOR IMPORTS UNTIL APPLES ARE CERTIFIED FREE OF PESTS

Invasive Insects And Pests Like Stink Bugs Are Threatening Wayne County & Other Upstate New York Orchards 

Senator Says USDA Must Halt Plans for Apple and Pear Imports from Poland Before Similar New Invasive Insects like the Snout Moth, Apple Fruit Weevil, Apple Seed Moth or Pear Leaf Blister Moth Spread Like Wildfire 

Schumer: Pests Could Take A Huge Bite Out Of Apple Industry 

During a visit to Fruition Farm in Wayne County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately halt any plans by the USDA to allow imports of apples and pears from Poland until USDA conducts a pest risk assessment for Polish apples in order to ensure that apple and pear imports are able to be certified free of pests. For several years, invasive insects and pests have found their way into the United States, harming fruit and other produce. The most recent example is the brown marmorated stink bug. Now, Schumer warned, with plans advancing to bring Polish apples and pears to New York, the potential for invasive species-laden fruit to wreak devastating harm to Wayne County’s Orchards will increase exponentially. Schumer therefore called for a halt to advancing plans for polish apple imports.

“Wayne County is the core of New York State’s apple industry – which is why we should be fighting tooth and nail to protect Wayne County from invasive species that could take a huge bite out of the very crops our growers rely on for their livelihood. It makes absolutely no sense that we would invite these apples and pears from Poland into the U.S. if the USDA is not sure they have put controls in place to ensure invasive pests and diseases do not wind up being shipped into the U.S. alongside their fruit. That’s why I’m calling on the USDA to not only conduct a thorough pest risk analysis, until we can ensure they are not putting our hardworking apple growers, both here in Wayne County and across Upstate New York State, in jeopardy,” said Senator Schumer.

Schumer explained that, under a trade agreement with the European Union (EU), the U.S. allows imports of apples and pears from certain EU nations that meet stringent phytosanitary standards with regard to pests and pathogens. As a result, there are currently seven countries that are seeking “fast track” for apples and pears to the U.S. because they have been previously determined to meet the strict standards the USDA requires for fruit imports. However, Poland has not yet proven to have met the phytosanitary requirements for U.S. market access. Despite not meeting the necessary requirements, Poland is pushing for the USDA to include it in the group of EU countries seeking to expeditiously export their apples and pears to the U.S. Schumer therefore said it would be a mistake to allow Poland to simply join the group of countries seeking pre-approval to export their goods to the U.S. because, as of right now, USDA has not done a full analysis to determine if imports from Poland meet USDA standards. In addition, USDA must conduct a full review and updated pest risk analysis for any EU country seeking “fast track” access to the U.S. market.  

Nearly 32 species of quarantine pests have been found in EU produce, including 26 insects, 4 fungi, and 2 pathogens. These pests, including Snout Moth, Apple Fruit Weevil, Apple Seed Moth, Pear Leaf Blister Moth, are banned in the U.S. and any EU country that imports apples and pears is required to ensure they have standards in place to make sure those pests are not exported to the U.S. with the fruit.  For example the Pear Leaf Blister Moth attacks stone fruit and is now present in Europe and Asia. They produce up to five generations each year. Females law up to 50 eggs on the fruit tree’s leaves and when the larvae hatch they live within the leaves and eat the leaves causing premature leaf fall, delays in shoot growth, reduce fruit weight, and fruit yield reduction. Similarly, the Apple Fruit Weevil, found now in eastern Europe and areas of the former Soviet Union feed on buds, flowers, leaves and fruits of apple and stone-fruit causing the injured fruit to eventually turn brown and becoming mummified.

Schumer explained that these imported apples and pears from Poland could be carrying invasive pests that would be disastrous in Upstate NY, for both commercial and environmental reasons. Schumer explained that the introduction of a single invasive plant or pest like the Pear Leaf Blister Month could have a serious impact on the tree fruit industry if any of these species were to devastate the crop or the surrounding environment. For example, the brown marmorated stink bug – originally from Asia – alone has resulted in millions of dollars in losses for tree fruit growers in the U.S., and is particularly prevalent in the Hudson Valley. Schumer said many local farmers are worried this pest could soon do harm to orchards in the Finger Lakes region since the stink bug is now present throughout the Rochester Finger Lakes region. In addition, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Experiment Station in Geneva, another invasive species that is now increasingly harming apple orchards in Wayne County and Orleans County is a beetle called the Black Stem Borer, originally from Southeast Asia. Cornell says it is seeing some growers now in Wayne and Orleans Counties that have lost up to 30 percent of their fruit trees in a given planting due to this pest. Schumer said to allow any further pests to come to the U.S. because of lax standards could further hurt the industry in Upstate NY.

Therefore, Schumer said that, until the USDA is fully confident that Poland has implemented a robust screening process that can control for the presence of pests and is approved by the USDA, he backing the NYS Apple Association’s effort to halt imports of Polish produce. Moreover, Schumer is urging the USDA’s office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ (APHIS) to conduct a thorough Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) to determine whether Polish imports pose a risk to NY crops before granting any approval. Importing foreign produce without conducting a PRA, Schumer argued, would constitute an unprecedented break with established policy and present an undue risk to Upstate apple and pear growers, like those in Wayne County.

Wayne County produces more apples than any other county in New York State, and nationally ranks as the fourth highest apple producing county in the nation.  More than 25,000 acres of farm land in Wayne County is devoted to apples, which accounts for over half of the total apple acreage in all of New York State.

Schumer was joined by Fruition Farm owner, Richard Endres; New York State Apple Association President and CEO Jim Allen; as well as local Wayne County apple and fruit growers and local elected officials.

“Senator Schumer’s efforts to protect us from these invasive pest threats are needed and welcome,” said Richard Endres, owner of Fruition Farm.

New York Apple Association President and CEO Jim Allen said, “The apple industry is a huge economic driver for New York, the nation's second largest apple producing state, so it is vitally important to keep our apples safe from new threats from invasive pests.  Nowhere is that more critical than in Wayne County which is New York's largest apple producing county.  Whether it’s the brown marmorated stink bug now threatening our New York orchards or the Black Stem Borer that is damaging apple trees in Western New York, the introduction of even a single invasive pest or disease can have a devastating impact on the Apple industry.  That is why we appreciate Senator Schumer's support to ensure that countries like Poland that don't have adequate safeguards to eradicate pests are not given the greenlight to import into the United States.”

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the USDA appears below:

Dear Administrator Shea:

Thank you for your consideration of our comment period extension request for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ (APHIS) proposal to change the U.S. market import requirements for apples from certain countries in the European Union [Docket No. APHIS-2015-0073]. While we appreciate your willingness to allow additional time for stakeholders to review and comment on this issue, we remain concerned about the impact of several aspects of this proposal.

As you know, the introduction of a single invasive plant pest or disease can have a devastating impact on the tree fruit industry. The brown marmorated stink bug alone has resulted in millions of dollars in losses for tree fruit growers. We feel APHIS’ systems approach proposal does not fully address key concerns raised by domestic apple growers about the risk for importation of plant pest and diseases from EU countries.

Since Poland has not previously met phytosanitary requirements for U.S. market access, we request that APHIS conduct a thorough pest risk analysis (PRA) for Poland prior to determining whether it is appropriate to allow access under this petition. The current proposal departs from established policy by not conducting a PRA for a new petitioner.

While the other seven EU countries that would be allowed to import under the systems approach have previously conducted PRAs, it is unclear whether the data reflects the most current pest risks. Since the PRAs were completed, these countries have experienced significant regulatory changes, including the establishment of the EU itself. APHIS should also ensure the risk assessment reflects the significant reduction in the crop protection tools available to growers in some parts of the EU which may reduce their ability to control certain pests and diseases.

Finally, the ability to prevent the introduction of invasive pests and diseases will be determined in large part by the operational work plan (OWP). We ask that APHIS thoroughly consult with stakeholders in industry and the scientific community when developing the OWP.

Thank you for your attention to these requests.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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