Schumer targets armyworms after devastation in western New York

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Specifically, Schumer wrote a letter to Vilsack about a type of caterpillar commonly referred to as "armyworms" that have been harming crops in the western part of Schumer's state.

"These pests are devastating a wide range of crops from wheat to corn to specialty crops, leaving farmers field’s decimated. As New York farmers have already suffered major losses from late season frosts this year, it is critical that the USDA leverages its extensive resources to assist farmers by elevating the armyworm to the agricultural research service (ARS) priority list of pests and to have APHIS produce a report including an updated guidance for pest control," Schumer wrote in the letter sent Monday.

The current infestation, Schumer writes in the letter, is due to the worms migrating from Southern states earlier in 2012, resulting in the "highest known populations of the pest to date."

"Many of the state’s wheat, hay, sweet corn, Swiss chard, rye, and lettuce fields have been destroyed due to the massive infestation this year," Schumer writes.

Schumer wants the USDA to devote more resources to studying the worm and also wants the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to release new information for dealing with the armyworm.

"I urge the ARS to elevate the armyworm to its priority species in order to direct research resources devoted to pest control to studying the armyworm," Schumer writes in the letter.  "Additionally, I urge APHIS to produce a report investigating the current extent of the infestation and update of the 2005 guidance on armyworms taking into consideration new prevention, eradication, and control methods."

Read the letter below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I write to express my concerns in regards to the recent outbreak of the pest commonly known as the armyworm in western New York. These pests are devastating a wide range of crops from wheat to corn to specialty crops, leaving farmers field’s decimated. As New York farmers have already suffered major losses from late season frosts this year, it is critical that the USDA leverages its extensive resources to assist farmers by elevating the armyworm to the agricultural research service (ARS) priority list of pests and to have APHIS produce a report including an updated guidance for pest control.     

New York is no stranger to the destruction of the armyworm as it had devastating effects on crops during the 2008 growing season. The current infestation of armyworms migrated from southern states this spring in record numbers, which has resulted in one of the highest known populations of the pest to date. They move quickly from field to field in enormous numbers devouring crops in their path. Many of the state’s wheat, hay, sweet corn, Swiss chard, rye, and lettuce fields have been destroyed due to the massive infestation this year.

I commend the USDA for its enduring commitment in battling pests and invasive species that have plagued our nation’s farmers. Past contributions of resources under the NIFA program to universities such as Cornell for research have proved to be most valuable, but in light of the increasingly widespread infestations of the armyworm this year it is critical that USDA devotes additional resources to combat this devastating pest. I urge the ARS to elevate the armyworm to its priority species in order to direct research resources devoted to pest control to studying the armyworm.  Additionally, I urge APHIS to produce a report investigating the current extent of the infestation and update of the 2005 guidance on armyworms taking into consideration new prevention, eradication, and control methods.

Thank you for your attention to this request and commitment to battling pests that plague our nation’s farmers. Please feel free to contact my Washington office.


Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

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