February 27, 2011

Cornell Pest Program Funding May Be Exterminated

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Cornell’s 30-year-old Integrated Pest Management program in Geneva, N.Y.,  is facing closure after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed on Feb. 1 to end its funding.

Working with Cornell faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension programs, IPM helps New York State growers improve pest management through research and education outreach. IPM consists of five pest management-related departments: fruits, vegetables, livestock and field crops, ornamentals and community. It is one of many agriculture-based organizations affected by the proposed budget,

Although funding for the community department is not at risk, IPM’s four other departments will close on March 31 unless new sources of funding are found. While IPM receives some federal and private grants, a majority of its funding comes from the state, according to Elizabeth Lamb, coordinator of IPM’s ornamentals division. If the gap left by the state is not filled, the program will not be able to sustain itself.

Last year, the state proposed eliminating IPM’s $1 million state allocation. However, growers reliant on the program’s services successfully pressured lawmakers to restore $500,000 to the program, Lamb said.

One of those growers, Cathy Kessler, co-owner of Bakers’ Acres of North Lansing, lamented IPM’s second proposed closure in two years. In addition to offering tours and gardening classes, Bakers’ Acres sells a variety of plant and garden items.

Bakers’ Acres worked closely with IPM staffers and scientists to experiment and determine proper biological controls for pesticides. Together, they created schedules to maximize pest control and minimize chemical usage, Kessler said.

Kessler added that working with IPM has not only been a satisfying venture for her business, but that the customers appreciate the process as well.

“If people get wind that we’re just using chemicals, they will be upset,” Kessler said. “Before, it was when we see a problem, we just spray.”

She added that, after IPM’s help, Bakers’ Acres no longer sprays pesticides indiscriminately.

Bakers’ Acres displays signs explaining its pesticide measures and the work they do with IPM to their clients.  Kessler said her business and relationship with customers would be negatively affected by IPM’s elimination.

“Good biological control is what people want to hear. They love to know what we’re doing,” Kessler said.

Lamb said that IPM maintains positive relationships with the growers it works with —relationships Lamb said she hopes to continue with friends of the program rallying support, as they did last year, before the state budget is finalized in April.

This year’s budget, however, may have less room for programs such as IPM. Gov. Cuomo has stressed the importance of closing New York’s $10 billion state budget deficit and advocated for widespread cuts across the state.

Still, Lamb said the program served a valuable function for upstate New York.

IPM releases annual guides that establish pesticide usage guidelines, which Lamb said help many upstate New York companies understand pesticide use.

While IPM’s goal is not to completely eliminate the need for pesticides, the program aims to help growers use pesticides efficiently and take environmental concerns into consideration.

Although Lamb said she hopes the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences might help make up IPM’s projected shortfall, she acknowledged that CALS also faced budget cuts.

“No one [in CALS] is saying that it is not a good program,” Lamb said. “They’re saying that there is no funding.”

Original Author: Tajwar Mazhar