Ag official to discuss citrus greening
At the California Citrus Mutual annual meeting Thursday at the Visalia Convention Center, Rebecca Bech, USDA deputy administrator, APHIS Plant Protection Quarantine, will present the Department of Agriculture’s views on the Citrus Health Response Plan, the Administration’s program for protecting the United States citrus industry.
The dreaded disease, Huanglongbing (HLB) is ravaging citrus production areas in Brazil, Mexico, Belize, Florida and Texas, and while the vector, Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) is in Southern California, the disease has not yet been found.
The California citrus industry, learning from mistakes in other areas of the country, has engaged in an aggressive program with USDA to seek out the psyllid, eradicate where possible, and look for signs of HLB.
“As the scope of the problem became apparent in Florida teams of growers traveled to Florida to learn more about the scope of the problem,” reports CCM Board Chair Tom Wollenman. “What we saw was the beginning of 200,000 acres of citrus being removed because of the disease.” That would represent two-thirds of California’s $2 billion citrus industry which is valued higher than that produced in Florida because of the industry’s fresh orientation.
The industry has assessed itself $15 million each year for the past three years, which it pairs with an $11.5 million support effort from the federal government to accomplish an objective heretofore never done before.
“The goal is to find the disease and pull the trees before it finds commercial citrus,” Wollenman notes. To date one tree in one back yard in Los Angeles County has been found and destroyed.
Bech is expected to relate how budget cuts to the department could affect the USDA partnership. Additionally, the department has been active in a program with Mexico south of the California border and industry and government in an attempt to create a buffer thereby minimizing the number of ACP coming in from that pathway.
The event begins at 6 p.m. with a social hour followed by the dinner meeting at 7.
California Citrus Mutual is the industry trade association representing over 70 percent of the tree crop tonnage on a voluntary basis.
Reservations are still available by calling the CCM office at592-3790.