Given that hops are produced in relatively few markets and so much of the crop is exported, it is important to US hop growers that their exports meet foreign regulatory standards. In particular, it is essential that the crop protection materials they use are permitted in foreign markets and that residues fall within acceptable levels. Throughout the world, countries are establishing national maximum residue level (MRL) lists that can differ from US standards. The result is that responsible US hop growers can apply needed crop protection materials according to approved labels, be perfectly legal in the US, but have shipments rejected in foreign markets because the substance has not yet been evaluated in that country.
MRL harmonization is the single largest issue facing the US hop industry.
For the past 20 years, BCI has worked with the US hop industry to address this issue by cooperating with the US government, foreign government health agencies, crop protection registrants, and IR-4 (Interregional Research Project #4). Specific hop data packages have been prepared and shared with foreign governments to encourage the establishment of hop MRLs in key export markets. Through this process, hundreds of hop MRLs have been established in markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and the European Union. These MRLs allow US hop farmers to ship with confidence that their product will not be stopped upon entry in the export market.
Moreover, as part of this effort, BCI was able to work with the European Commission in 2010 to change the categorization of hops in the European Union from a major crop to a minor crop. The result of this adjustment was a streamlined approval process for future hop MRL requests. The US and European hop industries welcomed this change.
BCI continues its MRL work on behalf of the US hop industry in markets throughout the world. BCI’s work in the area is critical for the U.S. hop industry. As Ann George, Washington Hop Commission Administrator states, “MRL harmonization is the single largest issue facing the US hop industry, as this determines whether growers are able to utilize many important plant protection tools in IPM and sustainable production systems, and still ship the crop. With nearly 80% of our annual production destined for over 60 countries across the globe, differing standards can rapidly impact our ability to reach customers and adversely impact sales."