A proposed National Clean Plant Network would help protect the United States from exotic plant pests and pathogens.

Provisions for the network are contained in two legislative bills: the Equitable Agriculture Today for a Healthy America Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives during the last Congressional session, and the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act, which was introduced in the Senate. Neither went to a vote. The bills will need to be reintroduced in the next session. Richard Pombo (Republican, California), who was the primary sponsor of the EAT Healthy America Act, lost his seat at the November election, said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.

The network would secure a national funding base for diagnosis and elimination of viruses in the tree fruit, nut, and grape industries and would distribute funds to the National Research Support Program No. 5 in Prosser, Washington, and to Foundation Plant Services at the University of California, Davis. It would also help fund blocks of elite virus-tested plant material in sites around the country.

Clemson University, which operates a clean stock testing program for tree fruits, will establish a regional tree fruit foundation block, and Cornell University, Geneva, New York, will reactivate its tree fruit and grapevine virus programs.

The Northwest Grape Foundation Service at Washington State University will be part of the network, and a consortium of land-grant universities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia will provide resources for a mid-Atlantic region grapevine foundation program.

Federal funding of $3.1 million is requested for each of the first two years, and $2.7 million annually in subsequent years. Growers will continue to contribute $2.7 million annually to clean stock programs through user fees and assessments paid to state-managed certification programs.

Bill Howell, manager of NRSP5, said provisions for the National Clean Plant Network might eventually be incorporated into the 2007 Farm Bill, rather than being passed as separate legislation.

Howell is a member of a steering committee that is working with industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a strategic plan to define and implement the proposed network.