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Farmers fight phase out of methyl bromide

(Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2002 -- CropChoice news)--

Knight-Ridder Tribune Karlayne R. Parker, Tampa Tribune, Fla., 09/07/2002, via AgNet: PLANT CITY, Fla.--The "Super Daddy" tractor, according to this story, clawed through dirt as it applied methyl bromide gas on Tommy Brock's farm recently.

Not far behind it, another tractor sealed the chemical in the ground with black plastic. In the next week, Brock's 72 acres southeast of here will be treated with gas and covered.

The fumigant kills pests and weeds that can choke the crop of strawberries he will plant this month.

The use of methyl bromide is scheduled to end in the United States by 2005. But, the story says, thousands of farmers hope studies that compare the gas to alternatives will persuade the federal government and an international agency to grant an extension.

On Monday, farmers from Florida and elsewhere are expected to make the deadline for filing an extension request with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a critical use exemption.

The Florida fruit and vegetable growers' request will include 2,000 to 6,000 pages of studies by the University of Florida and others on why an extension is needed.

"It's a matter of what works," said Brock as migrant workers stretched the plastic and family members drove the equipment.

For the past 10 years, Florida's agricultural industry has studied the effectiveness of methyl bromide and alternative chemicals. Bottom line, said Mike Aerts of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, is "they [the alternatives] are not feasible to act as a drop-in replacement."

Aerts was in Naples this week with other agricultural officials to put together the packet of information for the EPA.

Economist John Faulkner of the EPA said other states are putting together similar extension requests, including California and North Carolina.