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Nature's pests, import threats

I come away from all this potential bad news thinking, Vermont agribusiness doesn't need another crisis.

From changing market prices to excessive rainfall, those who till our soils and tend to hoofed and feathered critters lead a pretty precarious life as it is; they don't need more troubles-they just need a few good years of bounty.

In the case of Asian insects such as the ash borer and the stink bug, both U.S. and its trading nations need to do a much better job of introducing unwanted agricultural pests.

With that said, there is some good ag news to cheer about-such as the Vermont maple industry's highly successful 2011 Sweet Season-but our orchard owners have enough to worry about without the onslaught of yet another pest.

I wonder how the organic industry deals with these new threats without the use of agri chemicals? Maybe there are lessons to be learned by employing more organic growing practices in the fight against these imported pests.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must strongly demand that exporting nations step up their pest inspections, on the shipping end. With so many foreign products being shipped to America now, it's amazing there aren't more of these natural invaders to deal with.

Climate change is often blamed for pest problems, but when it comes to the ash borer and stink bug, the problem seems more logically to stem from liberal inspection practices on both sides of the world.

Take the stink bug, a native of Korea: Vermont's climate is nearly identical to the inland, northern parts of Korea (consider all those beautiful ornamental shrubs and trees of the Korean peninsula that thrive so well here), so it's not surprising that this particular pest would feel right at home here.

So how do we put a stop to these imported pests? How do we nab every potential threat hiding in cargo containers, clinging to wood palettes, or lurking in the rootstock of horticultural products?

U.S. agricultural agents must seriously step up their port-of-entry quarantines; they must also keep cargoes locked up longer in order to conduct more detailed inspections and thorough fumigations-and while we're at, let's significantly increase federal and state fees on imported products. This will help pay for damages that American farmers-and ultimately we consumers-pay as a result of the laissez-faire attitudes of shippers and receivers.

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