Strawberry industry in tight spot as methyl iodide pulled

Strawberry industry in tight spot as methyl iodide pulled

Methyl iodide use overseas puts U.S. strawberry growers at a disadvantage.

From the Monterey County Herald:

Growers and agriculture officials in Monterey County cast a weary eye at the surprising announcement late Tuesday that a manufacturer of an up-and-coming soil fumigant — intended for widespread use by strawberry growers — decided to pull the product from the U.S.

Some viewed the decision by pesticide maker Arysta Life Sciences Corp. as one more in a long list of factors that are making it increasingly undesirable to be a farmer of conventionally grown crops.

"This decision puts the strawberry industry in a tight spot," said Bob Roach, assistant agriculture commissioner for the county.

Statewide, strawberries are a $2.3 billion industry. They are No. 1 in Monterey County, with a $751 million crop value in 2010 — close to 20 percent of the county's total crop value.

Arysta said it pulled the fumigant, methyl iodide, because it wasn't economically viable. The new product had picked up little to no traction statewide or in Monterey County.

"Part of that was what farmers were hearing the reaction would be environmentally in their local communities," said Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau. "I think farmers just shied away from the product. I think they didn't want to be the next place where picketers showed up."

Arysta made clear that it will continue to support use of methyl iodide, a highly toxic chemical, outside of the U.S. That fact "puts our growers at a distinct disadvantage," Groot said.

For more, see: U.S. sales of methyl iodide halted by manufacturer

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