Sen. Chuck Schumer is ringing the alarm about a grave threat to New Yorkers, and it’s not a government shutdown, illegal immigrants flooding across the southern border, or the nation’s ballooning debt.
It’s much more serious, involving tiny terrorists quietly infiltrating the city, smuggled inside Christmas trees.
“If you happen to pick a fresh-cut Christmas tree that came from outside New York state, the tree could be harboring a really pesky little secret,” Schumer said at a press conference about the threat – the spotted lanternfly. “This little critter looks nice, but he’s no love bug. … If we do nothing about them, trees in Central Park, on the streets of New York City and our beautiful leafy suburbs could very well be at risk.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave Pennsylvania $17.5 million to fight the bug, a native of China that feed on about 70 different kinds of plants, including maples, pines, willows, and Christmas trees, according to the New York Post.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation explains that the nymphs and adult spotted lanternfly “use their sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap” of the trees.
“This feeding by sometimes thousands of SLF stresses plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects,” according to the agency. “SLF also excrete large amounts of sticky ‘honeydew,’ which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth of fruit yield of plants.”
There’s no sign the bugs are actually in the city, but Schumer thinks the federal government should send some cash anyhow, since they’ve been confirmed on Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate New York, the Gothamist reports.
“With most of these invasive species, a stitch in time saves nine,” Schumer said. “We get to work on it early, we could stop it from coming here.”
Schumer didn’t reveal how much federal tax money he thinks the city needs to save its 600,000 trees.
“We haven’t seen too many of them in New York, thank God, but if we do nothing, we will,” he said. “We are very worried that this pesky bug, the spotted lanternfly, if nothing is done, could do damage that would light up New York like a Christmas tree.”
The announcement is only the latest obscure cause consuming the senator’s precious time.
In October, as thousands of migrants marched toward the U.S. intent on crossing the border, Schumer trained his sights on an “outdated protein crediting policy” that “has driven up the cost of Greek yogurt for school, preventing it from being more widely available,” according to a Schumer news release.
Last year, while Congress worked to overhaul the failed Obamacare system, Schumer instead focused on protecting Americans from themselves, whether they wanted the help or not. The senator sent a letter to the U.S. Food Drug Administration in July requesting the government step in to regulate fast food containers and the makers of a snortable chocolate product called Coco Loco.
A business called Legal Lean Co. sold the “raw cocoa snuff” as a legal “runners high” that “will make the music sound better and increase overall happiness.” The cocao snuff is apparently popular in some cities, but Schumer make it his mission to kill the buzz.
The product’s website states plainly that it’s not recommended for children, could impair driving, doesn’t treat disease and is not evaluated by the FDA. That’s a problem, Schumer said.
“This product has no clear health value,” Schumer wrote in a statement. “I can’t think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses.”
The stimulants in the cocoa snuff are the same stimulants contained in energy drinks.
Schumer also petitioned the FDA to regulate caffeinated peanut butter in 2015, amid the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis, The American Mirror reports.
“Parents across the country shouldn’t have to worry about a scenario in which their children might unknowingly bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that contains more caffeine than two cups of coffee,” Schumer wrote in a statement.
“To think that peanut butter, one of the snacks most closely associated with children, might have to be stored in the medicine cabinet as opposed to the kitchen cabinet should serve as a jolt to the FDA,” he wrote. “This caffeinated peanut butter should spur the agency to address the issue of caffeine being added to everyday food products and the effect that will have on the health of consumers and children.”