Sen. Gary Peters Introduces SWAT Act to Fight Invasive Bug, Help Farmers

“This is an important investment for us to make for today as well as for the future.” – Sen. Gary Peters

New legislation in Washington, D.C. is aimed at helping Michigan fruit farmers. Senator Gary Peters introduced the legislation, called the “SWAT Act”, which stands for the Spotted Wing Abatement Trust Act. Gary Peters

He says an invasive pest known as SWD (spotted wing drosophila) lays eggs in soft-skinned fruits like cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. And there is zero tolerance from fruit buyers, the entire load from that grower can be rejected if a single larva is found.

Peters says the bug causes economic losses every year across the US. “This is an invasive fruit fly that’s doing incredible damage. It’s spreading across the country. It’s been estimated that’s it’s already had an impact of roughly $700 million of loss to growers across the country,” he says. “Here in Michigan with our cherry farmers it’s been estimated that it’s been a reduction of anywhere from 20-30% of their crops. So this is a significant pest.”

The bill would create a fund through the US Department of Agriculture to support five years of research to reduce the species’ population. “It’s incredibly important for our producers because this could have a significant impact on their bottom line. If they’re losing 20-30% of their crop there’s no question this is the difference between actually making money that year and losing money,” Peters says.

He adds that getting rid of the pest, which was first found in the continental United States in 2008, would be good for everyone from the farmer to the consumer: more fruit yield, lower prices for consumers, higher profits, and new jobs.

Peters says Michigan State University would participate in that SWD research.