Grain News

MT Rep. Rehberg Seeks Further USDA Assistance to Fight Wheat Stem Sawfly

Date Posted: April 20, 2012

Washington, DC—Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is asking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to commit more resources to the fight against the wheat stem sawfly, an insect that is responsible for up to a 30% reduction in wheat yields in some fields across nine western and mid-western states, including Montana.

“Through my years in agriculture, I've learned threats like the sawfly need to be tackled early and head-on,” said Rehberg, a 5th-generation Montana rancher from Billings.

“That’s why I’m asking the federal government to prioritize research to combat this problem.

"We’ve already seen it spread.

"Let’s confront this challenge now before we risk further losses. America’s and Montana’s wheat fields feed the nation and the world, and are a leading source of income for thousands of rural families in Montana.”

Calling the sawfly a “serious problem for the stability of our nation’s food supply,” Rehberg formed a coalition of lawmakers in the affected areas to pressure the USDA for more action.

Rehberg's group contacted USDA Agriculture Research Service Administrator Andrew Knipling to encourage him to place a high priority on research to mitigate the problem before it becomes debilitating to the nation’s wheat supply.

Sawflies are insects that nest inside the stem of the wheat then proceed to ‘saw’ their way out after hatching, causing the stem to fall over.

Wheat yields in affected areas are reduced 15% to 30% each year as a result of both downed grain that cannot be harvested and systemic loss from the insect’s stem feeding.

While the phenomenon was previously concentrated in Canada, Montana, and North Dakota, sawflies have spread to Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The Montana Grain Growers Association supports Rehberg’s efforts.

Dale Schuler, former MGGA president and current chairman of the Montana Grains Foundation said, “We applaud Congressman Rehberg’s effort to raise awareness of the devastating effects of the wheat stem sawfly and the economic losses to our farmers and to Montana’s economy.

"His request for more dedicated research by the USDA is welcomed by farmers looking for solutions to reduce the ongoing sawfly threat.”

For more information, call 202-225-3211.

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