Budget calls for nearly $1.6M to combat spotted lanternfly

Destructive inspect first found in Berks in 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is calling for increased funding to fight against an invasive species of insect that made its first North American appearance in Berks County more than three years ago.

Wolf on Wednesday proposed spending nearly $1.6 million to combat the spotted lanternfly as part of his fiscal year 2018-19 budget plan.

The funding, he said, will help the state protect $18 billion worth of agricultural commodities, including apples, grapes, and hardwoods, that are threatened by the insect's infestation in Berks and surrounding counties.

"For more than three years, we have been trying to contain — if not eradicate — the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania," said Russell Redding, the state's secretary of agriculture. "When it first appeared in Berks County, it was the first time this particular species had been found in North America, and while we have limited its spread, it's clear we need dedicated resources to mount an effective response plan."

After receiving $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, Redding said the state plans to use its proposed funding to leverage additional support from the federal government.

"Pennsylvania's elected leaders from both sides of the aisle have been incredibly supportive of our need for additional resources because they understand the consequences of an ineffective response," Redding said. "Working together is absolutely essential to eliminating this threat. That is why we have worked closely with our federal and local partners to execute our response plan, but it is apparent that more resources will be needed from Washington if we are to be successful."

The spotted lanternfly is an inch-long black, red and white spotted insect that is native to southeast Asia. Since it was first identified in Berks County in 2014, it has spread to 12 other counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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