Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
March 24, 2004  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Reps. Eshoo, Farr and Sen. Boxer Urge End To Unfair Bans On California Agriculture  

A trio of California's Congressional leaders today urged Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to provide immediate assistance in protecting California's nursery industry from unjust bans on California agricultural goods imposed by Florida and other states.

The nursery industry is a $2.35 billion business for California. Growers in 12 California counties, including San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz, are currently required to demonstrate that their products are free from the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death (SOD) before they can ship their products. The bans imposed by several states, however, do not recognize this effort. These bans go far beyond reasonable limits and include shipments from disease-free nurseries and species that cannot even host the SOD pathogen.

"Nurseries that abide by USDA regulations and ship plants free of this pathogen should not have markets closed to them by states that seem to be erecting barriers not based on science, but on economic protectionism," said a letter to Secretary Veneman which was signed by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel), and Senator Barbara Boxer.

The full text of the letter is below:

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March 24, 2004

The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Veneman:

We write to express our serious concerns and to ask for your immediate assistance with the recent actions of states that have unjustly quarantined ornamental nursery plants from California.

As you well know, the nursery industry is a vital part of California's economy, with nurseries ranking only behind dairy and grapes in agricultural production. Since 2002, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo along with nine other counties in California have been operating under a USDA quarantine because of Phytophtphora ramorum, or Sudden Oak Death. Recent discoveries of this pathogen in Southern California have brought additional nurseries under the Department's treatment protocols that are a part of this quarantine.

Despite the USDA's actions, several states have blocked nursery shipments of ornamental plants from California. Some states, such as Florida, have banned all California ornamental plants, even those plants that are not host plants of this particular pathogen. Other states have limited their ban to those "host plants" but banned nursery plants from nurseries that were able, under the USDA's protocols, to ship once they were certified to be free of Phytophtphora ramorum. A sample USDA SOD-Free Nursery Stock Program Compliance Agreement is enclosed.

We have fought vigorously to protect the coastal oak trees and other natural resources threatened by Phytophtphora ramorum. At the same time, nurseries that abide by USDA regulations and ship plants free of this pathogen should not have markets closed to them by states that seem to be erecting barriers not based on science, but on economic protectionism.

We urge you to vigorously enforce the power Congress gave you under the Plant Protection Act and ensure a consistent and fair treatment of California nursery plants across our country.

Sincerely,

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Representative Anna G. Eshoo (CA-14)
Representative Sam Farr (CA-17)