California nursery growers said that they were pleasantly surprised Monday when Texas agricultural officials announced that they plan to launch a snail-eradication program in conjunction with an embargo aimed at keeping the pests out of the state.
The embargo threatens California’s $100-million annual trade in ornamental plants and flowers with Texas.
A public hearing in Austin, called by the Texas Department of Agriculture, “went very positively,” said Bob Vice, a Fallbrook grower and first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. He said testimony went “about nine to one” against the present quarantine order, which Texas instituted Sept. 4.
About 150 persons, Vice estimated, turned out for the daylong hearing conducted by Ron D. White, Texas’ assistant agricultural commissioner. Vice headed a delegation of California nursery growers who protested the quarantine by Texas, where the European brown garden snail has been established for years.
In the absence of any eradication program, the quarantine made “no biological sense,” said California Farm Bureau President Henry J. Voss. He said it favored “a few influential growers in Texas.”
Vice said that, at the hearing, “even those (few) growers who supported the quarantine had problems with the way it is worded.”
At the hearing, White repeated what he told The Times on Friday--that Texas intends to institute a snail-eradication program. “That came as something of a surprise,” Vice said.
A meeting of Texas officials and representatives of the California Nursery Growers Assn. late last week produced an agreement “in principle” under which the Californians would support a selective quarantine if the Texans embark upon an eradication program of their own.
Nonetheless, he added, the Texans approached their problem backward by implementing an emergency quarantine against the snail before making surveys to assess its impact and implementing an eradication plan.
A number of California growers have invested heavily in making their nurseries “snail free,” said Robert Moore, president of Azusa-based Monrovia Nursery, the state’s largest. These growers believe that their certificates should satisfy the Texans without subjecting their shipments to additional inspections, he said.
White said Texas decided to order a quarantine after Florida, a major horticultural state free of the garden snail, ordered a quarantine against horticultural products from California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and South Carolina and “any other state” harboring the pest. The Californians support that quarantine because the state is snail free.
Written testimony can be submitted to White until Oct. 9. He said a final decision is unlikely before mid-November.