Rodger Wasson, president of the California Strawberry Commission, testified recently before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research about the critical use exemption (CUE) process for methyl bromide and the importance of this fumigant.

He conveyed the industry's dedication to producing an affordable, bountiful crop while growing in a manner that protects the earth's resources. The presentation also focused on the commission's work with the parties of the Montreal Protocol on the CUE Process, which gives industries with a critical need the ability to apply for use of methyl bromide after its phase-out.

In remarks to the committee, a description of the strawberry industry's 14-year transition to alternate fumigants was provided. This transition enabled 35 percent of the state's strawberry acreage to be fumigated with alternatives in 2004. Despite this success, many growers continue to face numerous challenges when transitioning to alternate fumigants, including a significant increase in production costs, limits in availability of alternatives and difficulty when applying alternative fumigants on severely sloped fields.

Grower challenges

The commission's testimony also centered on the challenges faced by the California strawberry growers and the great care they take in providing a safe, nutritious crop with the tools currently available.

“There are serious regulatory, technical and economic challenges that prevent many growers from using currently available alternatives,” said Wasson. “It is for these growers that we continue to fund research into alternatives and are testifying about the industry's need for the continued availability of methyl bromide.”

The commission's testimony commended the U.S. EPA and international parties who oversee the CUE process while offering suggestions to make the Critical Use Exemption Process more efficient. Certain aspects of the process need to be changed to allow for the continued availability of methyl bromide while the industry develops safer, more suitable alternatives.

Switching to an emissions-based management strategy rather than usage reduction would protect the ozone layer by reducing emissions while allowing growers to continue to use methyl bromide until suitable alternatives are found.

The California Strawberry Commission supports and represents the California strawberry industry with programs in research, education, marketing and issues management. The commission represents an industry of approximately 600 growers, shippers and processors.