Businesses based in Frederick County or Winchester will have to start applying for permits to ship a wide range of items out of the county following a declaration by a state agency of a quarantine zone to prevent the spread of an invasive insect.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services imposed the quarantine Tuesday in Winchester and Frederick County to counter the spotted lanternfly, a pest native to Asia that appeared in Virginia last year.
David Gianino, a state plant regulatory official for VDACS, said the internal quarantine is set up to prevent the spotted lanternfly from leaving Frederick County and infiltrating the rest of the state. The quarantine, Gianino said, also has provisions for setting up restrictions on goods coming into the state from other known infested areas such as Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
In order to move products in and out of the county, businesses will have to complete an online training course designed to help identify spotted lanternflies before applying for a permit, Gianino said. Once one member of a business has completed the training course and receives a permit, businesses must train employees to inspect their goods and identify spotted lanternflies and their egg sacs.
Each shipment that leaves Frederick County will include an inspection list, Gianino said, which serves as a way to ensure the lanternflies stay at home.
“We understand there are particular items that are difficult to look at,” Gianino said. “It’s to do due diligence, to look as detailed as you possibly can.
“The reason the quarantine is existing now is the insect is beginning to spread,” he added. “We wanted to do the quarantine to help reduce the artificial spread by requiring these inspections at the business level.”
Businesses that don’t comply or violate the permit requirements won’t face fines, Gianino said, but the VDACS commissioner does have the power to bring class 1 misdemeanor charges.
Some states have physical checkpoints to stop and inspect vehicles before they cross state lines. New York doesn’t have a known spotted lanternfly population but has quarantined itself and has a permit process to shield itself from any unwelcome visitors sneaking by on cargo.
Virginia’s permit is reciprocal with other states’ permits, Gianino said. While all of the permit processes differ from state to state, permits from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland all honor each other as well as Virginia.
Businesses that do have permits will be required to pass inspections moving into other quarantined zones, Gianino said, or they could be sent back to Frederick County.
The quarantine went into effect on Tuesday but there is a 30-day grace period to give businesses time to get their training done and permit applications submitted.
Elaine Lindholm, director of communications for VDACS, said the businesses most affected by the quarantine have been quick to get in touch and find out how they can get their permits taken care of.
Only businesses located in Frederick County are required to obtain a spotted lanternfly permit, Lindholm said, but citizens should be aware of their own regulated items they might be moving in and out of the quarantine zone.
“What we would like them to do is be aware of the problems of moving things like outdoor furniture or plants, lumber, firewood,” she said. “We’re asking citizens to be mindful of that kind of thing.”
Other regulated items include any and all plants or plant parts; outdoor industrial and construction materials or equipment; shipping containers and a wide range of outdoor items such as tractors, mowers, grills and tarps.
Lindholm said there is a chance cars and RVs could be stopped at checkpoints to be inspected, though it’s unlikely. There also won’t be any internal checkpoints as of now, Lindholm said, because the spotted lanternfly has, so far, been contained to Frederick County, and hasn’t spread to any other parts of the state.
“The artificial spread is what we’re trying to contain here,” Lindholm said. “We can’t really contain the natural spread. If a bug decides to fly somewhere, there’s not much we can do about it.”
For more information about the spotted lanternfly, how to identify it and how to obtain a permit, visit www.vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services.shtml.