How much does a get-out-of-plague-free card run these days? Apparently somewhere in the neighborhood of $119,000. That's how much the state's Legislative Emergency Board pledged today in an effort to eradicate the worst grasshopper infestation Eastern Oregon has seen in decades.
Today's Emergency Board meeting came 11 days after state Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) sent a brusque letter addressed to Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Jeff Merkley, co-chairs of the E-Board, stressing the need for immediate attention to the multiplying hoppers. He warned the senators that more than 700,000 acres of wheat, barley, corn and hay fields were at risk.
“Twice before Legislative leadership has turned its back on requests to fund this position giving us the emergency we have today,” he wrote, referring to the two occasions in the past two years that Director of Department of Agriculture Katy Coba asked for funding and didn't see her request move past the governor's office.
But today Coba and Ferrioli got what they wanted. The $119,000, which comes from the state's $30 million emergency allocation fund, will be divided so that it will both fund the position of an entomologist who'll be hired to keep the insects under control, as well as provide $50,000 to help offset the cost of pesticides.
Ferrioli stressed that though his letter was sent in the midst of Merkley's tight race for Senate, the grasshopper infestation was a genuine emergency, and not a partisan issue. “Grasshoppers have no political affiliation
,” he pointed out.