WYOMISSING, Pa. — On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) visited Penn State Berks to tour the center where researchers are studying methods to eradicate the spotted lanternfly. She then held a press conference where she announced a bipartisan effort to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support research into preventing the spread of and eventually eradicating the invasive and destructive insect species that has wreaked havoc on the agricultural industry in Pennsylvania and beyond. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture indicates the potential damage and lost revenue due the spotted lanternfly could amount to $18 billion per year statewide.
“I have heard from farmers, homeowners and agricultural leaders in our community about the destruction caused by the spotted lanternfly,” said Houlahan during a press conference at Penn State Berks. “We have a thriving agricultural industry in Berks and Chester counties that is being threatened by this invasive species. That’s why I’ve launched a bipartisan effort to urge Secretary [Sonny] Perdue to maintain funding for grants that support critical research happening at places like Penn State Berks Campus and others to effectively combat and eventually eradicate the spotted lanternfly. I am committed to fighting for our community’s farmers and the crucial role they play in our local economy.”
Houlahan announced her efforts at Penn State Berks after touring the Center for Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment at Penn State Berks, where research has been conducted on the spotted lanternfly for the last two years.
"The collaboration between the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State Extension, and Penn State Berks to research and identify effective means of controlling the spotted lanternfly is a powerful example of the role of a land-grant research university in serving the public interest," commented Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk.
During the tour, Houlahan heard from Dennis Calvin, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean and director of special programs; Heather Leach, Penn State spotted lanternfly extension associate in the Department of Entomology; Julie Urban, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences associate research professor of entomology; and John Rost, lab supervisor for biology and horticulture at Penn State Berks.
The Center for Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment, centrally located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s spotted lanternfly quarantine zone, is one of the primary research sites where scientists are studying methods of controlling the invasive pest through a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture grant. The research team includes scientists from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State Berks, Penn State Extension, and Cornell University.
After the tour, Houlahan held a press conference to discuss bipartisan efforts to eradicate the spotted lanternfly and to highlight how the team had successfully secured a $7.3 million federal grant for research taking place to tackle the spread of the lanternfly.
"On the federal level, I'm proud to have led an effort to preserve funding for grants like this one," she said. "While so much down in Washington is very partisan, I'm very honored to have been joined by eight Republicans and six Democrats in Congress from Pennsylvania in outlining the necessary funding to continue our efforts to protect our crops from the spotted lanternfly."
Leach spoke about the grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It will also include $5 million in matching investments from growers and landowners who will participate in the research. The funding will support projects aimed at quantifying the impact of the spotted lanternfly on crops; reducing the damage it inflicts through management tactics; researching its biology, ecology and behavior; developing biological control tactics and providing immediate management solutions to stakeholders; and educating the public through all the partner organizations involved.
In addition, Pennsylvania State Sen. David Argall, representing the 29th District, spoke about the bipartisan effort led by Houlahan; and Darvin Levengood, owner of Manatawny Creek Winery, spoke about the devastating effects spotted lanternfly has had on the state’s vineyards.