Growers get another $10mil. to fight citrus disease
exeter – California citrus growers will soon get help from the State to stop a devastating plant disease threatening residential and commercial citrus trees.
Governor Brown signed the 2017 Budget Act last week and authorized $10 million in general funding to prevent the spread of the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly and incurable plant disease it can carry, Huanglongbing (HLB) also known as citrus greening.
“California Citrus Mutual applauds Governor Brown and members of the California Legislature for recognizing the severity of this issue to not only the state’s citrus growers, but to the California economy and the many homeowners who enjoy citrus trees in their backyards,” says Joel Nelsen, president of the citrus grower’s trade association California Citrus Mutual (CCM).
HLB has devastated citrus production world-wide. In Florida, once home to the nation’s largest citrus industry, commercial production has plummeted by over 70% resulting in average annual economic losses of 7,945 jobs, $658 million in value-added product, and $1.098 billion in industry output, according to a recent report by the University of Florida.
“We know from what has happened in Florida that there are real and lasting economic consequences if HLB is allowed to take hold,” continues Nelsen. “California citrus is a $3.6 billion industry and supports over 22,000 jobs all of which could be lost if HLB is not stopped.”
California is the largest fresh-market citrus producing region in the world and one of few areas that have not been affected by HLB, but that could change if HLB is allowed to spread. To-date, the disease has been found in 73 backyard citrus trees in the Los Angeles Basin, triggering quarantines in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
“HLB is spreading at an alarming rate, and the addition of state funds will provide critically needed resources to help protect all citrus trees and prevent HLB from devastating the state’s vibrant citrus industry,” concludes Nelsen.
The one-time money brings the total funding in the fight against ACP and HLB to a record $44.9 million for 2017-18. The $10 million in state funds will augment the nearly $25 million currently spent each year by commercial citrus growers for pest detection and eradication, including the release of beneficial insects for biological control of ACP, in residential areas and ongoing public outreach and education. That number is also higher this year following the Governor’s signature of SB 243, which increases the $25 million annual budget for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP) by $9.6 million this year.
In 2009, the citrus industry created the CPDPP and authorized a mandatory assessment paid by growers that raises $15-18 million per year on average. All funds are directed toward urban areas, where an estimated 6 in every 10 residents has at least one citrus tree in their yard.
California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the Exeter-based association of citrus growers, says the money will spent to require more quarantines, to expand breeding and releases of a parasitic wasp that is the natural enemy of the pest, conduct additional surveys of residential citrus trees and more research to find better treatments and possibly a cure.