by CONGRESSMAN DOC HASTINGS
The People's Republic of China has recently stepped up efforts to gain access to the U.S. fresh apple market - an action that could have serious consequences for American fruit growers far beyond simple market competition.
China is home to numerous pests and diseases that have the potential to devastate American agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has already identified nearly 300 pests present in Chinese apple production areas that do not occur in the United States. This is an especially significant concern as China doesn't have a good track record of ensuring that their native pests and diseases do not enter our country.
Less than a year ago, APHIS halted the importation of Ya pears from China due to the presence of a fungal disease. The initial discovery of this was in Washington state. If this disease had become established, it could have caused significant economic harm to not only the U.S. pear industry, but also to the entire tree fruit industry, including apples and cherries.
Another pest native to China, the Emerald Ash Bore (EAB), was discovered in Michigan and has cost millions in losses. As USDA works to eradicate this destructive tree-killing beetle, taxpayers foot the bill.
We were very lucky that the Ya pear incident in Washington was discovered quickly, and there were no long-term or large-scale impacts to the U.S. tree fruit industry. However, the United States simply cannot afford another incident like the EAB infestation.
The United States has a well-established track record of using sound science as the basis for determinations on the safety of imported agricultural products. Until scientific experts are convinced that imported apples will not be a pathway for the introduction of a destructive disease or pest, our markets should not be opened to Chinese apples.
It is very important that APHIS moves only with great caution as they consider requests from China to export fresh apples to our country. The USDA's first responsibility must be protecting American agriculture and American consumers.
I have every confidence that the quality of U.S. apples means they can readily compete in the global marketplace with Chinese apples. However, U.S. growers should not be forced to deal with new pests and diseases from China, and the significant costs that would come with them.
Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's 4th Congressional District.