Snake River onions

Idaho-Eastern Onion Committee Chairman Kay Riley at Snake River Produce in Nyssa, Ore.

Some onion growers by 2020 will have to tweak their pesticide lineups after Environmental Protection Agency extensions allowing the use of two key chemicals expire.

EPA is not likely to authorize continued use of Lorsban beyond this year, said Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee Chairman Kay Riley, who at the end of February joined local industry and National Onion Association representatives in meeting with regulators and lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

EPA earlier granted a one-year extension, through 2019, to use Lorsban. The pesticide has been effective in controlling onion and corn maggots as well as spiders. Environmental groups have challenged a key ingredient, chlorpyrifos, which has been used in agriculture since 1965.

Riley said Lorsban is used on onions in small quantities early in the season when seedlings are small, and does not pose a high risk.

An alternative that could fill the gap to some extent involves planting seeds treated with a coating designed to protect them as they emerge, he said.

Onion growers have also used the broad-spectrum insecticide Carzol to control thrips under three emergency temporary-use authorizations since the thrips-carried Yellow Spot Virus appeared more than a dozen years ago. Those temporary authorizations aren’t likely to continue, Riley said.

But the insecticide Torac, used for thrips control, likely will receive full EPA registration and be ready for use in 2019, he said.

“It is not a silver bullet, but it’s another tool,” Riley said. Torac’s slightly different chemistry means thrips, which produce several generations during a crop season, will have less resistance, he said.

Minor-acreage crops, which include just about all except corn, grain, soybeans and cotton, rely on the Interregional Research Project 4, or IR-4, for pesticide research and EPA registration. Personnel from land-grant universities do the research.

“IR-4 does a great job. But it’s imperative to agriculture that the IR-4 program continues to receive funding,” Riley said. The group encouraged continued funding of IR-4 as a separate federal budget line item, where it’s not subject to the cost or whim of an agency.

The group also advocated for a workable program for allowing foreign guestworkers, and for keeping foreign and domestic suppliers on equal competitive footing in complying with the Food Safety & Modernization Act.

Now an importer of record, often a broker that has limited liability, is responsible for documentation, he said.

Riley is general manager and managing member at Snake River Produce LLC, an onion packer-shipper that employs about 50 seasonal workers in Nyssa, Ore.

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