Committee receives update on emerald ash borer


The House Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee got a first-hand look at a small, half-inch pest that’s to blame for the removal of hundreds of ash trees in St. Paul and Houston County.

Distributing vials of the emerald ash borer, Geir Friisoe, director of the Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division, said stingless wasps were released in Houston County as a biological control in an effort to slow the spread of emerald ash borer. Extensive testing confirmed the wasps are not harmful to people, other animals or the environment, but are a natural predator of the pest.

Early detector training sessions are being conducted across the state to train citizens on how to identify the invasive species. Training is scheduled in Winona, March 1; Fergus Falls, March 3; Andover, March 8; and Hutchinson on March 10.  Registration is available online.

The department received a $2 million appropriation last year from dedicated sales tax receipts to help prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer. Also, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources provided funding to help the department and the University of Minnesota produce the stingless wasps. The department is not requesting additional funds for the next biennium, and it does receive federal funds for this prevention effort, Friisoe said.