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EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Posted by milehighgirl CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 16:18

I thought this article might interest some:

EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

By Chris Butler / July 10, 2014 / 54 Comments

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Photo by Chris Butler
Photo by Chris Butler
DYING: North Louisiana business owner Joe Mitcham stands in front of what’s left of his peach orchard, ravaged by a particular fungus. A product exists to fix the problem and save his business, but the federal government has phased it out of the market on the grounds that it threatens the ozone layer.

By Chris Butler : Tennessee Watchdog

RUSTON, La. ��" The peach orchards at Mitcham Farms, near the north Louisiana city of Ruston, have survived winter freezes, droughts and dangerous hail storms, but they evidently will not survive the Environmental Protection Agency and its regulations.

The family-owned business, established in 1946 and featured in tourism magazines, is Louisiana’s largest peach orchard, according to its website, but owner Joe Mitcham expects he’ll close up shop in only a few years.

The federal government’s banning of a chemical in 2005 known as methyl bromide, used to treat diseased peach trees, has really given him no choice, as most of his trees won’t survive without it.

Many of Mitcham’s trees have already died.

The EPA claims using this chemical threatens the earth’s ozone layer.

Mitcham told Watchdog the federal regulations have also forced him to downsize his business from 60 employees to 20.

“Well, with more acreage to use we would be prospering,” Mitcham said. “We had the potential to be a million dollar business, but definitely not now.”

Mitcham said he now has difficulty covering business expenses. While describing himself as upset and frustrated by the situation, Mitcham, who inherited the business from his father, is heading into retirement.

Mitcham’s children are not interested in taking on the family business, but even if they were, the land, with the federal regulations in place, can no longer grow peaches or even other types of fruit, he said.

Selling the business to another potential owner is also not an option, for obvious reasons, nor is buying land elsewhere, given the area’s high property values, Mitcham said.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones told Watchdog on Wednesday that many of the agency’s experts on the subject of methyl bromide are “out of the office this week.”

The peach orchards remain a huge tourism draw, Mitcham said.

“This will have an impact with the loss of jobs and the loss of income of selling the fruit here because we have so many customers coming from out of state, especially Texas,” Mitcham said. “Half the vehicles I saw coming through here on July 4 were Texas license plates. The loss of that economy coming through Ruston will be pretty major.”

Ruston resident Laura Jones is among those upset about the situation.

Photo courtesy of Heather Ekblad
Photo courtesy of Heather Ekblad
PEACHY KEEN?: A collection of peaches gathered from north Louisiana.
Jones told Watchdog she went to the farm often growing up, and she now takes her children there.

“The reason more people aren’t in arms over the farm closing is because every time it’s been talked about before was because it seemed to be far away in the future, and not imminent,” Jones said.

“It’s such a symbol of our area, and it’s such a part of our history and it’s such a shame that it would go away. I don’t know what that would mean for our Peach Festival.”

Jones refers to Ruston’s annual Peach Festival, a big tourism draw held every summer for the past 50 years, with at least a little influence from the Mitcham family.

This year’s festival had a $5 million impact on the city of about 22,000 people, said Ruston Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Judy Copeland.

Copeland told Watchdog some people call her agency confused about whether the festival will continue.

PEACH PERFECT: Ruston, Louisiana's economy thrives on tourism for its yearly Peach Festival and homegrown peaches. Now, because of EPA rules, many peaches at the festival are imported from other states.
PEACH PERFECT: Ruston, Louisiana’s economy thrives on tourism for its yearly Peach Festival and homegrown peaches. Now, because of EPA rules, many peaches at the festival are imported from other states.
Mitcham, though, doesn’t generally bring his own peaches to the festival as he does plenty of business at his farm with the peaches he is still able to grow. The festival will, of course, continue, Copeland said.

“Still, though, we’re losing a big part of our community,” Copeland said. “It’s like losing a family member.”

Mitcham told Watchdog he hasn’t pursued any legal remedies.

Agricultural experts are currently pondering the benefits of an alternative to methyl bromide, but, if approved, no one will sell it until long after Mitcham’s farm is gone, he said.

According to the EPA’s website, methyl bromide is a toxic substance.

The United States and 26 other countries agreed in 1987, through an international treaty, to phase the product out of the market.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

Here is a link that might be useful: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Why would you need to use methyl bromide to grow peaches? Why is this one orchard dependent on it when there are peach orchards with the same issues all over the south?

Somehow, I don't find this article in any way credible, but maybe someone can enlighten me. I'm pretty ignorant about southern peach growing. This sounds like just another bashing of "big government" without actually providing facts.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

  • Posted by Drew51 5b/6a SE MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 17:53

I would also like to see some proof that Methyl Bromide is dangerous to the ozone. Of course no such proof exists. Next you'll be telling me the earth is warming! Ha!! What a joke!


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Ah, just as I suspected. A chance to begin another fruitless political discussion on Garden Web, Fruit and Orchards.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

H'man:
Not that I intend to get drawn into this one, but, with all due respect and appreciation, I do believe that, in this instance, it was your observation of the "bashing of big government" that injected any "political" brix into the conversation.

Just a thought.

I was perfectly fine with 100% of your response through "... enlighten me". Then.. the wheels begin to come off (jokingly said!!!) ....

Just keeping it fruity (really, really, really, I promise).

Mike ;) :) :)


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

  • Posted by glenn10 5a New Brunswick (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 19:35

Bromine is more destructive to ozone than chlorine. That is why halon fire extinguishers were phased out years ago. Any chemical that has bromine in it has the potential to break down and release it to the atmosphere.. HBFC's, CFC's propellants and refrigerants have all been phased out with HCFC's being phased out as we speak. Methly bromide has a lower ODP rating(ozone depleting potential)@0.6 compared to the old CFC refrigerant R12 @1.0 .But compared to HCFC R22 which is still used in a whole lot of older refrigeration equipment has a much lower ODP rating @ 0.05 which is a whole lot lower than methyl bromide, yet if I were to not follow proper refrigerant handling practise and vent to the atmosphere and I was reported,I would personally have to pay up to $50 000.00 dollars in fines or 6 month's in prison for a first offence and the company I work for would have to pay potentially up to $500 000.00! So why do farmers still get to intentionally release this stuff which is more harmful and not get fined?
It is sad that this family farm will be coming to an end but they knew it was coming for a long time so why did they not do something to adapt?


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 20:43

I thought Guardian rootstock was the answer to methyl bromide in the south. Methyl bromide is used to fumigate the soil before replanting, mainly to kill nematodes. Of course methyl bromide can't be used to treat already diseased trees. It would kill any existing trees.

Guardian was developed specifically to minimize replant issues like Peach Tree Short Life. I wonder why it apparently hasn't worked for this grower.

I like the way the grower pruned his peach trees. Very low.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

This guy's attitude is basically "Who gives a crap what happens outside my orchard - doing this the safe way will cost me more money".

I'm happy his orchard is failing. He's the same sort of person as the commercial fisherman complaining about catch limits as the species they fish go exctinct. We need less people like him, and more who evaluate the long term consequences.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Of course methyl bromide can't be used to treat already diseased trees. It would kill any existing trees.

The more I read ya'lls* comments the more I am wondering if the person who wrote the article had any idea what he was talking about. If it will kill existing trees, what in the world is the owner complaining about? Is he just using this as an excuse to retire? What would be the motivation to blame it on the EPA?

It is sad that this family farm will be coming to an end but they knew it was coming for a long time so why did they not do something to adapt?

Yeah, since 1987!

* Ya'll, the one word missing in the English dictionary:)


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

I'm also guessing this guy has other chemical options but he likes his tried and true old fashioned option and refuses to use anything else because it costs a little more and isn't quite as effective. So instead of just finding an alternative, he'll use this as an excuse to retire and use it as a political statement


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Mike, I think it was obvious from the get-go that the article was written to forward a political perspective that could be described as "bashing big government" without inserting very much political prejudice on either side of the issue. This is a politics based article, pure and simple.

The EPA didn't sign the treaty with 85 other nations to ban the use of this chemical. They don't pass laws.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Joe Mitcham stands in front of what’s left of his peach orchard, ravaged by a particular fungus.

Having never even heard of Methyl Bromide until reading this article I decided to learn a little more. What fungus is it that only Methyl Bromide will kill? I found this article that seems to debunk a lot of what Christopher Butler wrote. I haven't read it all but it does seem to have valid information. One problem with journalism is that citing sources is not mandatory. I understand in the case of protecting a source's privacy, but his article does not seem to be well researched at all. It's seems to be more of a political ploy to draw on peoples' emotions.

This one is much better researched:

Here is a link that might be useful: Economic Implications of the Methyl Bromide Phaseout


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

I was reading that thinking this Methyl Bromide stuff surely is not the only option. Followed by the thought: it probably does not really have any effect of the actual ozone layer. My next thought was, I have switched careers two times due to adversity or one type or another and nobody posted my story....My current thought is, crap! why did I spend 2 minutes reading then writing this


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 11, 14 at 11:50

"I would also like to see some proof that Methyl Bromide is dangerous to the ozone. Of course no such proof exists. Next you'll be telling me the earth is warming! Ha!! What a joke!"

Just take Chemistry 101 at Macomb Community College, Drew. It will help your posting.


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RE: EPA regs likely to kill 68-year-old Louisiana peach orchard

Like so many others have said, this article is a propaganda piece. It's intent and design was to cast doubt on the credibility of gov't and bash "big gov't". I'm surprised so many folks take the bait and get all riled up. Fox News makes a living on this very tactic. They don't let truth or facts get in the way, just spin the story to further their political objectives. Crap like this is why this stuff is/was still being used 30 years after 26 countries and the USA agreed to it's phase out.
I wholeheartidly agree with Joppa...guys like this need also to be phased out.
Truth is, this guy has an old played out orchard, his kids aren't interested in furthering. Oppurtunity for a political spin piece from the deep south largely anti-gov't, anti-enviroment crowd.
Drew51...You want proof? Go look it up and study it. I am sure you will doubt the science of all 27 nations anyway. Why is it that you feel you need to have it proven to you as an individual. Should the US gov't send a special envoy to your house armed with data/video/slideshows and other evidence to prove it to you? Maybe you require a representative from all 27 nations to do that. Do you have a degree in enviromental science and chemistry necessary to refute their data? Probably not.


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