“Prevention is the first, cheapest, and most effective method,” Leavitt told the PCAs. “The earlier an invasive pest is found — then the cheaper, more effective, and more environmental friendly the response will be. If we find the pest early enough we can eradicate it so it doesn’t spread across the state.”

Leavitt asked PCAs to proactively be involved in invasive pest control by immediately reporting new pest finds, being informed on pest situations, staying current on pest management methods and approaches, conducting outreach on keeping pests out of California, and involvement in issues which impact California agriculture.

A.G. Kawamura, secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), also spoke to the PCAs on invasive species. The secretary serves as the ISCC chair.

Secretary Kawamura says over the years the CDFA has learned better ways to tackle invasive species in the wake of public concerns over treatment methods, including more ground-based treatments versus aerial applications.

The agency has also learned to better pre-plan strategies against threatening pests, a lesson learned after rulings by judges in the LBAM issue which suggested the insect had not created enough damage to warrant an emergency effort so eradication should be stopped.

The CDFA’s new route is to create early programmatic, comprehensive environmental impact reports on insects.

“We used about $500,000 from a block grant from the specialty crop arena to ramp up environmental impact reports so we will have them in hand (early),” Kawamura said. “This is an import step forward for all of us.”

More groups, including the environmental community, now understand that invasive species are major threats to endangered species, habitat, and open landscapes.

Kawamura says agriculture has changed its pest control mentality; from killing every bug in the field during the 20th century to better tools available in the 21st century for more selective bug termination.

“We should be activists to close down the invasive species’ open door and close the gate,” Kawamura said. “We should put pressure on the president on down to talk about customs and border protection and homeland security to get them engaged with USDA-APHIS to create a layer of protection.”

cblake@farmpress.com