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Jim Hazen’s column in the December 2006, issue of Good Fruit Grower set the tone for the Washington State Horticultural Association’s December 2006 meetings. The theme was very appropriate in view of the challenges facing the tree fruit industry in the next several years.

His points regarding the need for the industry to be both economically and environmentally sustainable were right to the point.

As we begin the spring work to raise the 2007 crop, the issues of immigration reform and the weaning away from organophosphate pesticides should be at the forefront of growers’ minds. Several industry organizations have been working on the issue of codling moth control in face of the looming loss
of azinphos-methyl.

With the recent filing of a lawsuit by labor against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the consumer perception that pesticides are harmful to the food supply, the industry will face increasing pressure to eliminate OPs earlier than the EPA proposed deadline of 2012. The industry would be well served to react in a proactive manner on its own before outside forces come to play. Several large retailers are leaning towards enforcing their own requirements on their suppliers as to allowable agricultural practices. This is driven by consumer attitudes to which they must respond. Recent food-safety issues in the fresh vegetable industry have speeded the process and placed more emphasis on food safety.

This is an issue that is going to take the cooperation of the entire industry in order to achieve a successful transition. County pest boards, extension, private consultants, warehouse field representatives, Washington State Horticultural Association, Northwest Horticultural Council, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, the agricultural research stations, Washington State Department of Agriculture, and growers need to cooperate in this effort.

Dr. Jay Brunner has developed and given presentations on several alternative programs and products that can be used in the transition from organophosphates. Presentations were made at numerous industry meetings during the winter. The Agricultural Research Service, in cooperation with Good Fruit Grower magazine, has agreed to break this information into segments and publish it in the Good Fruit Grower periodically as the time for applications approaches. One of Dr. Brunner’s comments was that it is going to involve more scouting and attention to detail than just applying a "cover spray." Secondly, the new programs will cost more initially than using organophosphates. Areawide participation will be much more effective than a piecemeal approach.

There is increasing interest at the consumer level in food safety in both the United States and overseas. Retailers will respond to this with their own policies if industry is not proactive and ahead of this issue. The state government is willing to step in to aid in the transition, and the Hort Association and the Yakima Valley Growers and Shippers Association have made an effort to get legislation passed to support this. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is also willing to assist in the transition.

Over time, this effort will pay off with reduced pesticide costs, less labor to apply, better worker safety, improved public relations with the consumer and state and federal government, less pest-related tariff barriers in other countries, and hopefully, more dollars to the growers’ bottom line. This is an issue that affects the entire tree fruit industry, and hopefully, we can all work together
to solve it.