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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Agriculture Officials Take Aim At Japanese Beetle

Thomas Shahan
Oregon Department of Agriculture

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said it's recorded the largest Japanese beetle infestation in the state's history. But officials hope to stop the pest from spreading with an aggressive eradication program.

Japanese beetles have a voracious appetite and love to chow down on roses, vegetables and even cannabis. The pests are thought to have hitched a ride to the U.S. on an imported plant about 100 years ago and have mostly been held at bay in Oregon.

But an outbreak in a mostly residential area of northwest Portland has officials like Clint Burfitt worried. He manages pest prevention at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

"If Japanese Beetle were to establish in Oregon, then many of the types of plants that we produce in Oregon, and many agriculture commodities that we produce in Oregon would no longer be welcome in their primary markets."

The agency is proposing a five-year eradication program. If funded, the state would ask roughly 2,500 property owners to allow insecticide use aimed at killing Japanese beetle grubs.

The insecticide would be applied once a year over five years, and only in turf grass and ornamental planting beds. Burfitt said it would not be applied in vegetable gardens or riparian areas. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is contacting property owners in the affected area to inform them of the possible eradication program.

Burfitt said it's unknown at this point what action the agency would take if property owners refuse to participate in the program. The estimated cost of the program is $700,000 per year.