Pest quarantine aimed at Manteca

Two light brown apple moths were found recently in San Joaquin County, causing state and federal officials to call for a quarantine in the Manteca area.

It's the only place in the San Joaquin Valley that the highly destructive pest has been found. The moth has been discovered in the Bay Area and Central Coast and is a concern to valley farmers because more than 250 crop varieties, including citrus, grapes and tree fruit, are susceptible to its attack.

"This is absolutely a potential problem for us," said Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based Grape and Tree Fruit League.

Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said the second moth was found in central Manteca earlier this month, triggering a quarantine of the area.

The size of the quarantine should be determined soon, Lyle said.

He said no decisions have been made about treatment plans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on a sterile moth program that it hopes to release this year.

Farmers worry about pest infestations because of the potential they have for ruining crops and the difficulty quarantines pose to shipping fresh produce.

Under quarantine conditions, produce can't be moved within or outside of the area unless certified as free of the moth.

That makes it tough on exporters, Bedwell said:

"You could have a situation where a country could say we are not going to allow any product, or make the treatment of the pest so onerous that it makes shipping the fruit impractical."