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Invasive pests inflict multibillion-dollar toll on California

Experts peg the negative economic impact caused by invasive pests at $3 billion every year, making pest prevention a concern for all California communities.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) held an informational hearing at the California Science Center in Los Angeles highlighting the multibillion-dollar toll on California’s economy caused by invasive pest infestations and the importance of coordination between rural and urban communities in stopping these pests.

“Experts peg the negative economic impact caused by invasive pests at $3 billion every year, making pest prevention a concern for all California communities – not just those in rural areas,” said Sen. Cannella. “Today’s hearing offered an important opportunity to better understand the harm invasive pests pose to urban landscaping, waterways and public health and to discuss the role urban communities play in pest prevention and control.”

Recently, much of Florida’s citrus crop was destroyed by the Asian citrus psyllid, which spreads Huanglongbing, the most devastating disease of citrus in the world. The pest was first discovered in California in 2008; last year, quarantines were in effect in parts of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. In October, officials discovered five live Khapra beetle larvae and two dead adults in shipments stopped at the Los Angeles International Airport and at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, respectively. The Khapra beetle destroys seeds and grains, including rice, which is one of California’s top agricultural commodities.

“In light of our state’s persistent budget crisis, it will be all the more important in the months ahead to leverage local, state and federal partnerships to control these invasive pests, which can wreak havoc on our state’s $37 billion agriculture industry and can contribute to rising food prices,” continued Cannella. “I look forward to working with our agriculture industry, academic research and urban community partners in the months ahead to continue protecting our state from invasive pests.”

Testifying at today’s hearing were California Department of Food and Agriculture Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services Director Dr. Robert Leavitt, United States Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Quarantine California Plant Health Director Helene Wright, Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner Kurt Floren, Lindcove Research and Extension Center Director Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell, University of California Cooperative Extension County Director and Environmental Horticulture Advisor Dr. John Kabashima, and Village Nurseries’ Mike Babineau.

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