Governor Jerry Brown Authorizes $10 Million in Funding to Fight Citrus Disease in California
SACRAMENTO, CA - California citrus growers are now one step closer to eliminating the scourge known as citrus greening. This week, Governor Jerry Brown officially signed the 2017 Budget Act, which, in part, authorizes $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).
The citrus industry, including California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen, were pleased with the state’s decision, noting that this is a step in the right direction for California growers.
"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," Nelsen said.
These new state funds will be in addition to the nearly $25 million currently spent each year by commercial citrus growers for pest detection and eradication. These funds include spending towards the release of beneficial insects for biological control of ACP in residential areas and ongoing public outreach and education.
The act follows the 2009 grower-created initiative, Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, which authorized a mandatory assessment paid by growers that raises an average of $15-18 million per year. All funds generated are then directed toward urban areas, according to a press release, where an estimated 6 in every 10 residents has at least one citrus tree in their yard.
"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," explained Nelsen.
As we in the industry know, California isn’t the first place affected by HLB. Florida, another state with a massive citrus industry, has seen commercial production plummet by over 70%, according to a press release. As a result, the University of Florida reports that the Florida citrus industry has lost 7,945 jobs, $658 million in value-added product, and $1.098 billion in industry output.
"We know from what has happened in Florida that there are real and lasting economic consequences if HLB is allowed to take hold," added 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."
Will California’s influx of funds be enough to avoid such losses as we’ve seen in Florida? AndNowUKnow will continue our coverage as the issue continues to affect growers.