Eco-friendly pest treatments earn reimbursements
Voluntary program helps growers fight grapevine moth
By TIM HEARDEN
DAVIS, Calif. -- The USDA is offering grants to growers who use environmentally friendly methods to combat the European grapevine moth, for which there are still quarantines in six California counties.
Vineyardists and others have until May 4 to apply for funding from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to reimburse them for using softer chemicals or natural treatments such as pheromones to control the pests.
Help is also available for farms that are organic or are becoming organic. Financial assistance can be obtained for certain practices for up to three years.
"We develop these payment schedules based on the overall cost of doing a project," said Alan Forkey, the NRCS' assistant state conservationist here.
"It's basically a voluntary program," he said. "It's just to provide assistance to landowners who are in this situation where they need to treat for this pest. It's our way to give them some environmentally sensitive options to deal with it. What we get out of it is to promote integrated pest management."
This is the third year the NRCS has offered the reimbursements in coordination with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Forkey said.
"Our goal is to try and get landowners to use integrated pest management -- more environmentally sensitive ways of dealing with pests," he said.
Depending on their cost, landowners can be reimbursed anywhere from half to 75 percent of what they spend, he said. In the first two years of the program, about $400,000 and $500,000 in reimbursements were given out, respectively, Forkey said. The grants do not cover conventional spraying, he said.
The moth first appeared in California in 2009. Its larvae damage grapes, and adults can produce three generations in one growing season. The moth affects mostly wine grapes in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Nevada, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, where quarantines remain in effect. It can also affect stone fruit.
Under the quarantine, growers must sign compliance agreements that spell out specific measures they'll take to prevent the spread of the pest, such as making sure equipment used in the vineyard is thoroughly cleaned year-round, CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle has said. Green waste from the vineyard must be disposed of properly, he said.
In order for the grower to move product, the harvester, hauler and receiver also must be under compliance agreements, which Lyle has described as a "complex system of safeguards."
Officials have credited diligence by growers for the state and federal governments' decision in February to remove quarantines for 661,000 acres of vines in Fresno, Mendocino, Merced and San Joaquin counties.
Integrated pest management grant applications: http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=CA
University of California IPM recommendations: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/EXOTIC/eurograpevinemoth.html
European grapevine moth information from APHIS: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/eg_moth/index.shtml
European grapevine moth information from CDFA: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/egvm/index.html