Beware Young Grasshopper...Of the USDA


Photo: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden under a Creative Commons license.

The USDA announced plans yesterday to allocate $11 million of its budget to efforts this summer to control the spread of native grasshoppers throughout eleven western states. That money will go towards protecting four million acres of farmland, based on high estimates of grasshopper breeding going into this summer. These expectations are based on 2009 surveys of grasshopper populations. The states most at risk are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming; Idaho, Nevada and Utah are also at risk.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said:

USDA is closely monitoring the grasshopper situation, and is ready with both mitigation efforts and loss assistance programs to help communities impacted by this year's potential outbreak. The funding announced today will help us act quickly in states with economically significant outbreak levels and enhance our coordinated efforts with other federal agencies, state departments of agriculture, county and local agencies and private landowners to protect western rangeland.
The USDA is not seeking, however, to eradicate grasshoppers from the country altogether, recognizing that they are a vital part of local ecosystems, and that they play a valuable role in the environment.

So far, it seems that the USDA is taking appropriate measures, balancing between doing nothing (letting the grasshoppers run wild and ruin untold acres of crops) and going too far (eradicating grasshoppers as a species). Grasshoppers are a native species, after all. Invasive species are a different story.

On the other hand, it's worth keeping an eye of the USDA; they have declared PETA as a terrorist organization. To follow (monitor?) their efforts, go to their website.

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