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GAO Releases a Report Regarding IPM

November 9, 2001
In August 2001, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report titled "Agricultural Pesticides: Management Improvements Needed to Further Promote Integrated Pest Management." The report was sent to the Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation for the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry for the United States Senate. Senator Leahy had asked the GAO to examine the status of IPM adoption in U.S. agriculture. Specifically, the GAO addressed the following questions:

· How widely has IPM been adopted in U. S. agriculture?

· What are the environmental and economic results of IPM?

· Are there impediments that limit IPM adoption and realization of its potential benefits?

There is not enough space in the Bulletin to share the details of the report, so you'll have to read for yourself at http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?gao-01-815. (Note: This report posts with an opening at page 36. You'll need to arrow to the beginning.) However, I can tell you briefly that the report is not flattering, especially to the USDA. The first two sentences in the "Results in Brief" section set the tone: "USDA estimates that some level of IPM had been implemented on about 70 percent of the nation's crop acreage as of the end of crop year 2000, only slightly short of USDA's 75-percent goal. Although the IPM goal has nearly been achieved, the implementation rate is a misleading indicator of the progress made toward an original purpose of IPMreducing chemical pesticide use."

The second paragraph contains the following statements: " . . . IPM as implemented to this point has not yet yielded nationwide reductions in chemical pesticide use. In fact, total use of agricultural pesticides, measured in pounds of active ingredient, has actually increased since the beginning of USDA's IPM initiative. Use of a subset of chemical pesticides, identified by EPA as the riskiest, has declined somewhat since the IPM initiative began. However, this subset still comprises over 40 percent of pesticides used in U.S. agriculture."

The third paragraph contains some of the toughest language: "Despite USDA's initial commitment to the IPM initiative, federal efforts to support IPM adoption suffer from shortcomings in leadership, coordination, and management. Specifically, USDA has not provided any departmental entity with the authority to lead the IPM initiative. While six

USDA agencies, state and land-grant universities, and EPA all conduct activities intended to support IPM, USDA has abandoned its early efforts to coordinate those activities. Moreover, USDA has vacillated about the intended results of the IPM initiative, causing confusion among IPM stakeholders about the purpose of IPM. As a result of these deficiencies, federal funds are being spent on IPM without a clear sense of purpose and priorities, leaving a number of farm-level impediments to IPM adoption unaddressed. Such impediments include insufficient delivery of IPM information and services to growers, the perceived financial risks to growers of adopting IPM practices, and the higher cost of some alternative pest management products and practices. Although IPM stakeholders suggested that federal efforts might reduce farm-level impediments to IPM adoption, until USDA addresses the deficiencies in the leadership, coordination, and management of the IPM initiative, it is questionable whether federal efforts to address farm-level impediments would be effective."

Regardless of your reaction to these comments, you owe it to yourself to read the report. It makes for some very interesting reading.--Kevin Steffey

Author: Kevin Steffey


The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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