Reaping What You Sow

“You reap what you sow.” This age-old phrase has been used to describe a myriad of situations but its origin came from agriculture. And when it comes to protecting agriculture facilities and equipment from structural pests a client’s actions certainly make a difference.  

Sprague Pest Experts Lance Gray and Geoff Wiebe work out the company’s Eugene, Oregon Service Center and interact with a variety of agriculture clients including growers, food processors and transportation providers.

Crops that are harvested, stored and transported here and in the other vibrant agriculture regions across the Pacific Northwest region that Sprague services are prime targets for pests including rodents and a host of stored product insects such as Indian meal moths and warehouse and cigarette beetles.

“These pests are attracted to the various crops that are grown and harvested around the region,” says Gray. “Pest pressures can be fairly constant and clients vigilant about pest activity in and around their facilities.”

Since the fall harvest season coincides with levels of increased rodent activity these disease carriers seek indoor harborage to avoid winter’s cold weather. As a result the Sprague Pest Experts must focus not only on preventing pests from entering through a facility’s “back door” in product shipments but from protecting unprocessed and processed food already “in the barn.”

“In Oregon grass seed is a major crop and we need to help protect stored seed from mice before it is bagged and shipped to the big box stores,” says Gray. “A returned shipment of seed due to spoilage can cost the grower more than USD5,000.”

Gray adds that it is not only crops that are at risk from pests. He cites an incident where a grower with a large fleet of agriculture vehicles and harvesting equipment was forced to make USD10,000 in repairs to a USD200,000 tractor because mice chewed through the electrical wiring. 

Gray and Wiebe encourage remind agriculture and food processing clients to take a closer look at their food safety and pest management protocols, and see if they will stand up to more comprehensive GFSI and BRC audit standards by having Sprague conduct a risk assessment audit to identify areas for improvement.

“We encourage them to take preventive measures to protect their facilities and products so a minor pest issue does not blow up into a major one,” says Wiebe. “We assist them create and thoroughly document their pest management programs to show auditors what was done, when it was done, why it was done and what the results were.”

Think of the economic impact if a grower was unable to sell its crops to packers or distributors because their operation did not have a verifiable pest management plan in place or was unable to pass an audit? Many agriculture professionals would prefer not to.

And with expanded enforcement and recall capabilities under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA and USDA has drawn a line in the sand that the agency is serious about protecting consumers from food-borne illnesses.

What should agriculture industry professionals do to protect their investment from pests? Gray and Wiebe suggest following three steps:

1.    Sanitation – Design and consistently follow a thorough sanitation program for your facility and request the same from your vendors.

2.    Keep Equipment and Facilities Well Maintained – Regularly deep clean and keep food processing equipment in good repair; make sure your maintenance efforts stay on top of structural conditions (i.e. torn screens on windows and ventilation openings, no door sweeps, cracks in the foundation or roof, etc.) that provide pests easy access.

3.    Rotate Product – Do not sit on inventory and rotate product regularly to avoid rodents and stored product pests from infesting and spoiling the lot.

Sprague’s innovative and consultative approaches to pest management in agriculture facilities are based upon the latest integrated pest management practices, and are designed to assist clients pass audits and keep the supply of nutritious and delicious food to consumers across the region and nation.

Commercial Properties