Upon Prediction Of Increased Gypsy Moth Infestation In NJ, Menendez And Lautenberg Urge USDA To Devote More Funds To Combat Problem

Upon Prediction Of Increased Gypsy Moth Infestation In NJ, Menendez And Lautenberg Urge USDA To Devote More Funds To Combat Problem

NJ Dept. of Agriculture says NJ should spray 112,000 acres

Washington - Today the New Jersey Department of Agriculture reported that the 2008 gypsy moth infestation in New Jersey could be drastically worse than last year's, which itself was the worst in 20 years. In 2007 the moths killed 14,000 acres of trees in the state, and this year they could kill 45,000 acres, according to the Department.

In response, New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are pressing acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Charles Conner to use his discretion to allot more funding for gypsy moth suppression programs that allow the federal government to match local funding for spraying.

"These bugs are eating away at the Garden State," said Senator Menendez. "Municipalities don't have huge budgets to combat this infestation, and they will need as much assistance as the federal government can give. Especially in a state as populated as ours, having trees is vital for the environment and for our quality of life. We need to preserve and protect them."

"New Jersey faces a serious threat from gypsy moths and our communities need more help," said Senator Lautenberg. "We need to do all we can to keep our trees healthy and additional funding to prevent gypsy moth infestation is an important step in the right direction."

Senators Menendez and Lautenberg worked to fully fund the nationwide cooperative gypsy moth suppression program - at $9 million - as part of the FY08 Consolidated Appropriations bill signed into law last week. However, with these new estimates, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture is advocating the spraying of more than 112,000 acres in New Jersey, which would require much of the overall national budget for gypsy moth suppression.

Text of Menendez-Lautenberg letter:

January 3, 2008

Acting Secretary Charles Conner

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Acting Secretary Conner,

Today we learned our home state of New Jersey faces an unprecedented gypsy moth crisis. In 2007, the gypsy moth killed nearly 14,000 acres of trees, the worst outbreak in 20 years. This year the New Jersey Department of Agriculture predicts the destruction will likely be worse - much worse. New Jersey could lose 45,000 acres of trees without an immediate plan and funding to begin an aggressive spraying program.

The 2007 infestation was exacerbated by uncertainty over the USDA cost-share funding for spraying and cooperative suppression. Not able to bear the full cost of eradication efforts and unsure as to whether matching federal funding would be authorized, many towns decided not to spray. The results were unfortunately predictable: heavy defoliation and costly losses to our cranberry and blueberry crops.

In response, we fought to include language in the FY08 Consolidated Appropriations Bill, which recently passed Congress, instructing the USDA to maintain gypsy moth suppression funding at last year's high levels. Last year, the Forest Service spent $9 million nationally on gypsy moth spraying and those funds will be there again this year.

Unfortunately, after passage of this bill, we learned that this level of funding will not be nearly enough. To control this year's infestation, New Jersey must spray over 112,000 acres of public and private forest. Most of this land will need to be sprayed more than once. These treatments will cost $9 million. Because this program has a 50/50 cost share, half of these funds will be provided by the state or municipalities. But this means New Jersey alone will need $4.5 million in federal matching funds out of only $9 million total.

Congress could not foresee this historic outbreak, and it could not anticipate the magnitude of the response needed to avert devastating losses. Therefore, we implore you to use your discretion to increase USDA spending on the cooperative gypsy moth suppression programs, and to make these funds available quickly. It is imperative that these funds be available early enough to allow towns to match them in municipal budget proposals.

Thank you for consideration of this important matter. We look forward to your response.

United States Senator

United States Senator