USDA Integrated Pest Management Initiative

Barry Jacobsen
National IPM Coordinator
U.S. Department of Agriculture 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Initiative is important to America's farmers and consumers to insure the future profitability, sustainability, and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. This initiative is based on needs identified by farmers and others through a comprehensive needs identification and priority setting process involving every state. This participatory process is focused on implementing IPM in cropping systems on 75% of the nation's crop acres. Failure to address these issues will reduce the ability of U.S. farmers to be profitable and competitive in world markets while addressing important environmental issues and food safety concerns of consumers.


The USDA IPM Initiative combines existing and new resources of USDA and Land-Grant University programs into a single coordinated and cooperative effort with farmers, private consultants, and industry to address important pest control problems and to achieve the national goal of IPM implementation on 75% of crop acres by the year 2000.

The USDA IPM Initiative fills a long standing need for a national effort to more widely implement IPM on farms, in homes and other structures, urban landscapes, range lands, forests, parks and other public lands. The call for national leadership in IPM was a part of IPM initiatives in the Nixon and Carter Administrations and the national focus embodied in the USDA IPM Initiative was a consensus outcome of the National IPM Forum in 1992. This Forum sponsored by USDA and EPA involved more than 600 scientists, educators, regulators, food processors, marketers and other agribusinesses, environmental and other public policy activists and farmers from throughout the USA. On September 22, 1993, the Clinton Administration in joint testimony by the USDA, EPA and FDA before Congress stated that, "implementing IPM practices on 75% of the nation's crop acres by the year 2000 was a national goal". In 1994, the USDA developed a strategic plan for a department-wide IPM Initiative to achieve this goal. This strategic plan has four objectives. These are:

I. Insure USDA IPM programs and policies are effectively coordinated across USDA agencies and that cooperation is facilitated with non-USDA entities (public and private) in order to meet the national IPM goals. The key coordinating mechanism is the USDA IPM Program Subcommittee chaired by the USDA IPM Program Coordinator. The IPM Program Subcommittee has representation from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Forest Service (FS), Farm Services Administration (FSA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Office of Budget and Policy Analysis (OBPA) and EPA. This broad working group assures coordination of federal research, education and regulatory programs with Land Grant University and state based USDA programs in every state.

II. Establish and conduct a process for identifying the IPM implementation needs of producers and provide the support and resources necessary to conduct a coordinated program of research, development, and delivery of education and information to meet producers' IPM implementation needs.

III. Develop methods and conduct programs to accurately measure progress toward the 75 percent IPM goal and assess the impacts of IPM implementation on the public and private sector as measured by economic, environmental, public health and social factors.

IV. Implement a communication and information exchange program involving stakeholders to increase public and policy-maker understanding of the USDA IPM Initiative, it's objectives, progress, impacts, and benefits.

This approach to reduction in risks from pesticide use and development of more sustainable agricultural production strategies was adopted by USDA and EPA rather than the mandated use reduction strategy adopted by several European governments in the early 1990s. Since the first coordinated federal funding for IPM was provided for the Huffacker project by EPA, NSF and USDA in 1972 and Extension Pest Management Education (Smith-lever 3(d)) funding in 1973, the federal investment in all IPM related research and education programs has been approximately $180 million per year . In 1995, an increase of $25,000 in Smith-Lever 3(d) Pest Management Education funding was provided to each state and territory to conduct a process with farmers and others to identify and prioritize needs for IPM implementation for key commodities in each state. The Clinton Administration first requested increased budget support for the IPM Initiative in FY 1996. In FY1996, Congress appropriated increased funding of $2.0 million for the Pest Management Alternatives Program component of the IPM Initiative. Funding for the USDA IPM Initiative was again requested in the Executive budget for FY 1997 with an estimated total federal investment of $204.9 million an increase of $15.1 million over the appropriated FY 1996 budget.

Importance of Adopting IPM

Pest control represents approximately 34 percent of a farmer's variable crop production costs and pests continue to cause losses of 10 to 30 percent with current pest control strategies. In addition co existing pests, farmers are continually challenged by new pests such as Karnel bunt, new races of potato late blight, sweetpotato whitefly plus associated gemini viruses, and the brown citrus aphid and the associated citrus tristeza virus. These and other pests not only reduce profitability but often threaten export markets.

Pesticides are an important tool used by farmers to control pests. However, environmental regulation, pest resistance to pesticides and consumer concerns have reduced the use and availability of pesticides and has dramatically limited the introduction of new pest control chemicals. Thus, farmers are looking to USDA and Land Grant University research and extension scientists to provide new and improved pest management strategies. The IPM Initiative will do this by: 1) providing farmers with pest control tools including chemical pesticides, biological control products or cultural tactics to replace agricultural chemicals which are under regulatory consideration or whose registrations have been voluntarily canceled by registrants, and for which producers do not have effective alternatives; 2)providing alternatives where pest resistance limits IPM options; and 3) providing biologically- based and other sustainable strategies for management of existing and new pests in cropping systems.

Integrated pest management is a science-based strategy that provides answers to important pest control problems by identifying and introducing new pest control tools for farmers emphasizing biologically-based IPM products and ecological principles. IPM is defined as "a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks". It is the only proven approach that can simultaneously: 1) Increase producer profitability and competitiveness; 2) Provide consumers with safe, high quality, economical supply of food and other agricultural products; 3) Reduce environmental and human health risks associated with pesticide use on farms, ranches, homes, parks, forests, buildings, and range lands; 4) Open and enhance new export markets; 5) Enhance the sustainability of natural resources; and 6) Support new business opportunities in consulting and production of new IPM products.

USDA's IPM Initiative identifies new pest management tools through fundamental research and moves this science from the laboratory to the farm to solve priority pest control problems identified by farmers. A unique feature of this Initiative is that it based on grower-identified research and extension needs and voluntary implementation. This approach to pesticide risk reduction is compared to mandated pesticide use reduction laws enacted by several European governments. In a recent University of California, Department of Public Health study, IPM was evaluated to be a more effective strategy for reducing farmer reliance on pesticides while maintaining competitiveness than mandatory use reduction laws. The European mandatory use reduction laws based on amounts of active ingredient resulted in farmers primarily switching to new, lower use rate pesticides and not substituting biologically-based IPM strategies. The IPM Initiative will provide funding for research and extension education to help growers increase utilization of IPM-based pest control strategies. Failure to support the Initiative will slow the development and implementation of new biologically-based IPM products, and will limit the alternatives available to farmers for addressing important pest control problems.

Investments in IPM research to-date have resulted in adoption of IPM-based pest control strategies by some farmers. USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that the most basic level of IPM was used on approximately 50 percent of U.S. cropland in 1994. However, this study showed that the majority of crop producers were only able to implement low to moderate levels of IPM due to lack of IPM tools for the full range of crops and pests that need to be addressed on their farms. The IPM Initiative will provide farmers with the tools and knowledge needed to implement more comprehensive IPM strategies on these acres and to introduce IPM on the other 50 percent of U.S. cropland. This is essential if U.S. farmers are to reduce pest losses in the future and remain world-class competitors. A recent study has shown that 74 percent of Iowa farmers investing in IPM implementation report a two- to five-fold return on their investment. This detailed study is one example of the benefits of IPM use reported throughout the United States. In addition, the federal investment in IPM has helped leverage financial commitments by states, commodity groups and industry for IPM research, education and technology transfer.

USDA's IPM Initiative engages, in a partnership mode, the Land Grant University system and all appropriate federal agencies with farmers in identifying needs and setting IPM research and extension education priorities. More than 4250 customers, including 3205 farmers are currently involved in identifying priority research and extension needs for IPM implementation for key commodities at the state level. In addition to the state-level needs assessment process, 23 production region IPM teams in 44 states have identified needs for crop production systems in regions. These teams involve 154 farmers or crop consultants, 36 food processors or marketers, state and national level commodity organizations, agribusinesses, USDA and EPA field personnel, and research and extension faculty at cooperating Land Grant Universities. This approach to "buy in by researchers, farmers and others involved in all phases of the development and implementation of IPM programs" was complimented by the 1995 Office of Technology Assessment study, "Biologically Based Technologies for Pest Control" as being a proven method to ensure the expeditious flow from research projects into applications by farmers and private practitioners.

This participatory needs identification and priority-setting process has created high expectations for implementation of the USDA IPM Initiative by U.S. farmers, agribusiness, and environmental and public interest groups. A common statement made by farmers and others involved in this process is "not only are these things important, we want them done!" Funding currently available for research and extension is insufficient to comprehensively address these producer-identified needs in a timely manner. The budget requested for the IPM Initiative is based on meeting these producer identified needs in the next 6-7 years. Again, the 1995 Office of Technology Assessment Study, "Biologically Based Technologies for Pest Control", evaluated the USDA IPM Initiative "as addressing a number of criticisms " raised in the report on moving from research to implementation. This report concludes that, "Ultimately the impact of the USDA IPM Initiative will depend on sustained commitments from USDA, the Administration, and the Congress".

Investment Needed to Implement the USDA IPM Initiative

The budget request for the USDA IPM Initiative is based on meeting farmer and other stakeholder identified research and extension education needs for 75% IPM implementation within a 6-7 year time period. For research and education programs in CSREES, an investment of $27.5 million (budget increase of $12 million) is required in FY1997. In FY 1998, we will propose an increase of $8.0 million (to a total of $35.5 million) to provide the IPM research and extension education support needed to implement basic to advanced IPM strategies on 75% of the nation's crop acres. This level of support will need to be sustained for 6-7 years to successfully address the needs identified for selected major cropping systems representing more than75% of the nation's cropland.

These funds have been requested in the IPM and Biological Control Research, Pest Management Education, Emerging Pest and Disease Issues budget lines. These resources will support: 1) on-going core regional and state programs, 2) new production system IPM development and implementation projects, and 3) the development of alternative management technologies. Funding for new IPM component research and extension education and technology transfer programs is needed in the four regional IPM competitive grants programs. These programs are funded through IPM and Biological Control Research (PL89-106 Special Research) and the Pest Management Education (Smith-Lever 3(d)) budget lines. The four regional competitive grants programs will be supported with $3.8 million from the IPM and Biological Control Research budget line and approximately $700,000 from the Pest Management Education line in FY 1997 and are responsive to the needs and priorities identified by production region and state IPM teams. In addition, the Pest Management Education budget line supports the critical basic education and technology transfer infrastructure necessary to transfer IPM research to farmers via Extension programs in every state/county at approximately $10.1 million per year. We will not be able to achieve the 75 percent goal without strengthening this basic education and technology transfer infrastructure. Also, the fundamental research supported by the National Research Initiative and the USDA Agricultural Research Service undergirds the IPM component and systems research program.

A three-phase process to develop and implement IPM for crop production systems has been planned. This process is essential in developing and providing the "right tools" for farmers to implement IPM methods on 75% of the nation's crop acres. The three phases are:

I. Formation and development of IPM project development teams that address cropping systems in crop production regions. These crop production regions typically address more than existing administrative regions. In 1995 and 1996, 23 production region IPM teams composed of farmers, consultants, research and extension staff, state and federal agencies, and others identified priority research, education, and technology transfer needs to implement new and improved IPM programs for specific crop production systems. In FY 1997, we envision expenditure of $400,000 to develop approximately 20 new production system teams that will address cropping systems not addressed previously. These teams will develop implementation project plans for funding in FY 1998. These teams plus those formed in 1995 will address IPM implementation for 40-45 major cropping systems in the United States and will incorporate needs and priorities from the state level IPM teams.

II. Initiation of specific crop production system IPM development and implementation projects that address the identified research and extension education needs identified in Phase I. To achieve the needs identified, we envision that approximately 30-35 production system projects will be needed to achieve the 75% goal. These projects will fund the research and education needed to develop and implement IPM for regional cropping systems and will be based on proposals developed by IPM teams submitted for funding through a competitive process in FY 1997 and FY 1998. Requested funding for FY 1997 will competitively fund approximately 16 projects at up to $500,000 per project per year; these projects will be funded for up to 6 years with a mandatory mid-point review. Approximately 16 additional projects will be initiated in FY 1998 for cropping systems not addressed in projects initiated in FY1997.

III. Privatization of IPM systems in regional cropping systems. Experience has shown that implementation of IPM and privatization by farmers, crop consultants, IPM cooperatives or pest management associations has occurred where adequate IPM tools have been developed and economic and environmental benefits are identifiable. Phase II projects will provide these prerequisites for privatization. Development of private sector IPM services will be much slower if the USDA IPM Initiative is not funded. Core formula extension and research programs plus ongoing base IPM support for regional IPM grant programs will provide the needed education and technology transfer to farmers, crop consultants, cooperatives and agribusiness plus the development of IPM tools for existing and new pest problems. Extension educators associated with the Health, Environmental and Pesticide Safety Education Program will be critical in educating pesticide applicators and operators in IPM- based pest control technologies.

Budget Summary: FY 1997 funding for Phase I and II will be $4.2million from the IPM and Biological Control Research (PL89-106 Special Research) and $4.2 million from the Pest Management Education(Smith-Lever 3(d)) budget lines (total $8.4 million). An additional$4.0 million in each of these budget lines will be requested in FY1998. The four regional competitive grants programs will be supported with $3.8 million from the IPM and Biological Control Research budget line and approximately $700,000 from the Pest Management Education line in FY 1997(total $4.5 million). Core IPM extension education programs will be funded at $10.1 million from the Pest Management Education (Smith-Lever 3(d) budget line. Total budget request for FY1997 for these programs is $23.0 million.

Increased support is also needed for the Emerging Pest and Disease Issues budget line. This budget line includes the Pest Management Alternatives Program. This competitive grants program addresses the Memorandum of Understanding between the EPA and USDA to: 1) provide farmers with chemical pesticides, biological control products or cultural tactics to replace agricultural chemicals which are under regulatory consideration or whose registrations have been voluntarily canceled by registrants, and for which producers do not have effective alternatives; 2) provide alternatives where pest resistance limits IPM options; and 3) help farmers implement new alternative pest management tactics. This program will require $4.5 million in FY1997. The process to identify critical needs, at the state level, for this program is supported by NAPIAP and state Extension IPM Coordinators. Registration of new biological or other pest control products is coordinated with the IR-4 Minor Crop Use Registration Program and the USEPA. A Pest Management Information Decision Support System has been developed to facilitate process of identifying critical needs for research funding.

Other USDA Agency Budget Requests Involving the IPM Initiative

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Area wide IPM Research: This program focuses on management of pests where existing technologies(including pheromones, biocontrols and alternatives to pesticides that disrupt natural control systems) are most effective when used over a multistage area. Control of codling moth with mating disruption on apple and pear in the western United States is an example. Other pest/crop systems are currently under evaluation, including corn rootworm in the Midwest. (1997 budget request is $6.0 million, an increase of $2.2 million)

Economic Research Service (ERS) Assessment of IPM Initiative Impacts: A program to analyze pest management data and develop procedures for: 1) development of economic thresholds, and 2) coordination of assessments of economic, environmental and public health impacts of IPM programs. (1997 budget request is $0.5 million, no increase over 1996)

Ongoing Research and Application Programs ($ million): CSREES - National Research Initiative $16.5, Hatch formula/Pesticide-related grants $17.6, SARE $3.2; ARS - $65.2; FS -Research $9.2, Application $6.5; ERS - $0.1; APHIS - Biocontrol $3.5,Methods and laboratories $10.0; FSA-ACP/IPM cost share $8.0.

Ongoing Pesticide Data Generation, Collection, Assessment, andTraining Programs ($ million): NASS - $6.7; ERS - $1.9; AMS - $2.7;ARS/CSREES (IR-4) - $13.3; ARS/CSREES/ERS/FS (NAPIAP) - $6.5.

TOTAL IPM INITIATIVE AND OTHER IPM-RELATED PROGRAMS BUDGET REQUESTFY96 = $189.7 MILLION; FY97 = $204.9 million, an increase of $15.1 million

Suggested Reading

  • U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Biologically Based Technologies for Pest Control, OTA- ENV-636 (Washington,DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1995
  • Proceedings of the National Integrated Pest Management Forum-June17-19, 1992. American Farmland Trust
  • National Integrated Pest Management Forum: Discussion Papers of the Constraints Resolution Teams, June 1992
  • Food, Crop Pests, and the Environment. Edited by Frank G. Zalom and William E. Fry. APS Press, St. Paul, MN 1992
  • Pesticides in California: Use patterns and Strategies for Reducing Environmental Health Impacts. Pease, W.S., J. Liebman, D. Landy, and D. Albright. University of California, California Policy Seminar, Berkeley, CA. 1996
  • Ecologically Based Pest Management: New Solutions for a New Century. National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D. C.1996
  • Integrated Pest Management: The Path of A Paradigm. J. R. Cate and Maureen K. Hinkle. National Audubon Society, Washington, DC 1994