Wisconsin officials have suspended a state testing program after a test for Ralstonia solanacearum came back negative, the Society of American Florists (SAF) reported in its Washington Week In Review newsletter.
For industry groups like SAF, the state’s decision was welcome news: This spring, SAF and the Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin (CFGW) joined forces to educate Wisconsin regulators on the state program’s potential challenges, including the possibility for false identifications.
Ralstonia, a bacterial pathogen, threatens a variety of agricultural crops, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, as well as geraniums, according to APHIS. While the established national geranium certification program imposes strict requirements on the overseas facilities to ensure Ralstonia is kept out of the United States, from time to time state regulators beef up their own efforts to make sure diseased cuttings don’t slip through the system or arrive from uncertified farms.
In Wisconsin, the impulse was similar. But the state’s test methodology has proven unreliable. Over the past several weeks, SAF reports its representatives and representatives from CFGW met with the state officials to brief them on the USDA program, as well as on the growing practices of the Wisconsin industry. The representatives wanted to try to minimize the economic impact on growers awaiting test results.
“If this is such a serious disease for our state’s agriculture, we want just as much as anyone else to know that it’s not being imported,” says CFGW Executive Secretary John Esser. “We greatly appreciate the cooperation of our members, the communication with (Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection) and USDA, and the efforts of SAF as we worked together on this issue.”