Hop plant protection and Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs)
Growers need to be cognizant of MRLs to avoid export issues.
According to the Hop Growers of America 2017 Statistical Report, the U.S. produced over 106,000,000 lbs. of hops in 2017. Approximately 56,000,000 lbs. were exported out of the country. With over 50 percent of annual production being sold outside of the country, exports represent a large portion of hop sales for U.S. growers; it is crucial that U.S. grown hops meet international regulations.
A maximum residue limit (MRL) is the highest level of a pesticide residue that is legally allowed in or on food or feed when pesticides are applied according to the label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refers to MRLs as “tolerances”. Tolerances are established after completion of a risk assessment that demonstrates a pesticide can be used with “reasonable certainty of no harm”. Tolerances developed by the EPA cover food produced in, and imported into, the United States. International organizations like the European Union, as well as many individual nation states like Canada, Australia, and Japan, have set their own MRLs. Effectively protecting hops from pests and disease, while meeting import nation MRLs, presents a challenge for growers and the U.S. hop industry because MRLs often differ between nations. For example, the U.S. MRL for the fungicide, Luna Sensation, is 60 ppm, whereas the European Union MRL is 3 ppm. These discrepancies can create potential barriers to export; crops destined for foreign markets have been rejected at ports of entry because of illegal residues. As of April 2, 2018 there are greater than 20 discrepancies between nations.
For decades, the U.S. Hop Industry Plant Protection Committee (USHIPPC) has been working diligently to harmonize MRLs between nations through participation in the International Hop Growers Convention and other means. The USHIPPC, which represents Hop Growers of America, and the Oregon, Idaho and Washington Hop Commissions, coordinates plant protection research and pesticide registration for the U.S. hop industry. THE USHIPPC collaborates with hop growers, researchers, brokers, the IR-4 Project and others to ensure hop growers have the tools needed to safely and economically produce the highest quality hops.
For all U.S. producers who plan on exporting hops, it is essential to remain up to date on current MRLs. Because MRLs can change, the USHIPPC maintains a chemical residue database and harmonization chart for hops. The database, which is updated monthly, can be found on the Plant Protection page of the USA Hops website. For producers looking for more information, please contact USA Hops.