Subcommittee Reviews Impact of Methly Bromide Ban

Jul 13, 2000

Subcommittee Reviews Impact of Methyl Bromide Ban
Left Without Effective Alternatives, Growers Face Competitive Disadvantage

(July 13, 2000)
 
Washington, DC — Today, House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) convened his panel to exercise its oversight responsibility with regard to the implications to American fruit and vegetable production should methyl bromide be banned from use.

"Currently, I am unaware of any safe and effective product that could replace methyl bromide in the wide range of applications for which it is currently used," Pombo said.  "If America 's farmers do not have access to methyl bromide -- or a viable option, in less than one year, I believe they will be at a tremendous disadvantage compared to our foreign competitors."

Methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum pest control tool used to manage pests in soil, on commodities, and in structures.  It is used in production, storage, shipping and processing of over 100 crops -- including tomatoes, strawberries, beans, baled cotton, potatoes, watermelons, walnuts.  American farmers and producers from coast to coast depend on this product

Concerns over ozone depleting properties associated with methyl bromide led to a phase-out schedule for the crop protectant.  The Montreal Protocol set the standards for reducing ozone-depleting substances worldwide.  Under the Montreal Protocol, developed countries are to phase out the use of methyl bromide by 100 percent in 2005 from the 1991 baseline.

On January 1, 1994, under requirements of the Clean Air Act, the EPA took a much stricter approach to the phase out process than called for in the Montreal Protocol.  Production and consumption of methyl bromide was capped at 1991 levels with a phase out to be competed by the year 2000  -- years ahead of the Montreal Protocol schedule.
 
"Methyl Bromide phase-out and FQPA implementation leave producers and millers with few, if any options," Ranking Subcommittee Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) said.  "Immediate attention must be taken to mitigate this problem before the combined pressures of low prices, disaster, and disease tie the hands of farmers and, ultimately, consumers."

Due to the lack of both a transitional product, as well as a clear understanding of the economic implications involved, Congress, in October of 1998, amended the Clean Air Act requiring the EPA to adopt regulations permitting the continued use of this essential fumigant by American farmers. The EPA has yet to enact these final regulations, and American growers are left in the dark as to what these regulations will entail.

"Today we heard from the people who are most directly affected by this issue — people whose lives and livelihood are in production agriculture," Pombo said.  "It is my hope that their testimony will guide policymakers, both here in Congress and in the Administration, on how to tackle this contentious matter and to achieve a balance that doesn't leave our farmers out of the equation."

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