PENNSYLVANIA, USA — U.S. Reps Mike Kelly (R-Pa) and Joe Morelle (D-NY) called on the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) to address the spread of spotted lanternflies (SFLs).
The latest effort to prevent the damage of the invasive species specifically cites the economic impact that could be placed on Pennsylvania from the invasion.
In the letter to the USDA, the representatives wrote, "In Pennsylvania alone, an economic impact study estimated that without targeted efforts, the SFL could cost the state $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs."
This information comes from a 2020 study conducted by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Researchers state that under a worst-case scenario, these losses could increase to $554 million annually and cost almost 5,000 jobs.
Spotted lanternflies are known planthoppers who enjoy feeding on fruit and vegetable plants, including grapes, hops, apples, and cucumbers. As swarm feeders, they can quickly overwhelm grapevines, resulting in weakened plants, reduced production and vine death.
"While Pennsylvania has been the hardest hit since the invasive species arrived in 2014, a growing number of states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia have experienced significant infestations," Representatives Kelly and Morelle wrote.
"In 2022, Michigan, North Carolina, and Indiana also reported their first infestations, providing further confirmation that these invasive planthoppers are rapidly spreading across great distances, and immediate action is necessary," the letter continued.
Immediate action is urged in the letter due to the rate at which the species continues to spread across the country.
This interactive map, created by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, shows which specific areas of the country are currently in quarantine. In Pennsylvania, 45 counties are currently under quarantine.
"It is imperative that we address and contain this spread in order to protect the livelihoods of our nation's farmers from undue harm," the representatives wrote.
The lawmakers recommend immediate steps are taken to increase funding and resources toward national and state efforts to eradicate the further spread of the spotted lanternfly.
A full copy of the letter can be found here.