$17.5M in emergency funding earmarked for spotted lanternfly

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The federal government is contributing more money to help stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly in southeastern Pennsylvania.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday announced $17.5 million in emergency funding for what is described as a two-pronged approach.

"We've seen a dramatic expansion in the range of this pest over the last year and we need to take decisive action to prevent the spotted lanternfly from spreading throughout Pennsylvania and into neighboring states," Perdue said. "We have the tools to fight this invasive insect and -- together with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture -- we have developed an area-wide approach that will begin before the pest starts to re-emerge in the spring."

The emergency funding, officials said, will allow for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to manage the outer perimeter of the infestation and the state's Department of Agriculture to focus on a three-mile perimeter surrounding the core infested area.

The announcement came the same day Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed spending nearly $1.6 million to fight the invasive insect.

"Since the spotted lanternfly was first found in Berks County, there has been an effective, coordinated response from local municipalities, the Pennsylvania state government, and the federal government to stop the spread of this dangerous invasive species," said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican who represents parts of Berks, Chester, and Lancaster counties.

Since its North American discovery on the border between District and Pike townships in 2014, the invasive inspect has since spread to 12 surrounding counties, threatening a number of agricultural commodities, including apples, grapes, peaches, and various species of trees.

"This is an immediate and timely solution for my constituents in southeastern Pennsylvania, whose farms and daily lives have been impacted by the spotted lanternfly," said U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who represents parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon, and Montgomery counties. "This announcement means we will now have funds for coordinated treatments, outreach to farmers and others who have been impacted, and for detection surveys that will result in critical data."

The $17.5 million announced Wednesday is a significant increase from the $2.9 million the U.S. Department of Agriculture committed to the effort last year.

"USDA has recognized how important it is to support us in our fight against the spotted lanternfly," said state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Berks County Democrat. "With USDA, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, as well as local farmers, businesses and homeowners, we have a strong chance of controlling how far the spotted lanternfly spreads, and minimizing the physical and economic damage created by this insect."

"Since the spotted lanternfly was first detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania, we have benefited from strong community involvement and support," Perdue said. "Continued outreach and education will be critical to the success of our ongoing efforts. We need the help of producers, businesses and the public to look for this pest and take actions to control it."

The spotted lanternfly is an inch-long black, red and white spotted insect that is native to southeast Asia.

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