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Senators Collins, Peters Introduce Bill to Target Invasive Species That Threatens Blueberries and Other Fruits

The insect has led to as much as a 30% loss in blueberry crops in blueberry producing states across the country.

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced legislation to protect blueberries and other fruits that are threatened by the spread of an invasive pest, the spotted wing drosophila (SWD).  The Spotted Wing Abatement Trust (SWAT) Act would fund the research and mitigation of SWD, which has caused as much as a 30 percent loss in blueberry crops in blueberry producing states and has also led to large crop losses for cherry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, peach and grape farmers.  In addition, SWD has saddled many farmers with increased costs for insecticide and other pest management strategies.


“Maine’s wild blueberries are an integral part of our state’s heritage and play a major role in our state’s economy,” said Senator Collins.  “The pervasiveness of the spotted wing drosophila has threatened the livelihoods of fruit farmers across the country.  If left unchecked, it could have serious repercussions for our state’s blueberry industry as well.  Our bipartisan legislation would mitigate the rapid spread of this invasive pest and help prevent blueberry and other fruit crops from being spoiled by this infestation.”


"Once again, Senator Collins is standing up for Maine's farmers,” said Eric Venturini, Executive Director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.  “On behalf of Maine's wild blueberry farms and businesses, I thank her for her leadership and support.  The SWAT Act, if passed by Congress, will provide needed resources in the fight against a novel invasive pest insect, the spotted wing drosophila.  The funding it allocates could help support ongoing work at the University of Maine to develop cost-effective sustainable pest management strategies to combat this invasive insect."


“I appreciate Senator Collins’ leadership in introducing this legislation with Senator Peters,” said Philip Fanning, Assistant Professor pf Agricultural Entomology, University of Maine.  “Through the funding in the SWAT Act, growers here in Maine and nationally will be able to benefit from an important new tool in the fight against the invasive vinegar fly, spotted-wing Drosophila.  Since its emergence as a pest of berry crops in Maine and nationally, growers have suffered due to the increased costs associated with pest control.  A successful induction and establishment of this biological control agent, Ganaspis brasiliensis, will help reduce the economic impact of this pest, and our team at the University of Maine looks forward to partnering with APHIS to ramp up releases of this biological control and help sustain and grow Maine’s farms, and agriculture economy.”


SWD is native to East Asia and was first detected in the continental United States in 2008.  It has since spread across the West Coast as well as through Florida, Utah, the Carolinas, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  SWD lay eggs in soft-skinned fruit.  If a single larva is detected by a fruit buyer, a farmer’s entire load can be rejected.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) already support an SWD Response Team, but current funding levels are inadequate for the management of SWD.  The SWAT Act would establish a fund managed by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for the purpose of SWD research and mitigation. The account would be authorized at $6.5 million annually for five years, the level the SWD Response Team estimates is necessary to make progress to address the SWD infestation.  This fund would be modeled after similar funds, such as APHIS’ management fund for the spotted lantern fly.