Plan in place to allow some movement of citrus
Growers to get update today, Friday
Citrus growers who have groves within the two restricted areas have been given some relief in the movement of their bulk citrus, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced Wednesday.
A conference call for growers and shippers have been set up for today and again on Friday to update growers on the latest developments since two Asian citrus psyllids were discovered in the Orange Belt in late October.
The psyllids were discovered in traps collected in late October. One was found in a trap in a grove northeast of Strathmore and the other in a grove south of Terra Bella.
The discoveries are significant because the tiny pest can carry the tree bacterial disease Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. That disease, for which there is no cure, has already caused great devastation to the citrus industry in Florida and parts of Texas. The disease does not affect the fruit, but can kill trees in less than five years.
Since the first discovery was announced in mid-November, the state has imposed two restriction zones around each find. The zones are a five-mile radius and within each zone are eradication zones, roughly and 800-meter radius around the discoveries.
Within those zones, the movement of bulk, uncleaned, citrus was prohibited, but now the CDFA is giving growers an option.
It has identified 28 receivers, seven of those in Tulare County, which can received bulk shipments if the grove from which the shipment is coming from has been treated with an approved insecticide within the past seven days.
Jay Van Rein, spokesman with CDFA, said the new plan announced Wednesday is to give growers a little more flexibility in getting their fruit to a packing house or juice plant. Among the 28 receivers, nine are in Fresno County, seven in Kern County, one in Placer County and four in Riverside County.
Within Tulare County, approved receivers are Baird-Neece Packing in Porterville, Golden Maid Packers in Strathmore, Cal Citrus, Cal Valley Citrus and California Citrus Producers, all in Lindsay, Booth Ranches in Orange Cove and Exeter-Ivanhoe Citrus Association in Exeter.
All other fruit within the restricted zones must be free of stems and leaves before it can leave the area to be packed. If the packing house is within the zone, then it does not have to be cleaned.
The conference calls are to answer questions growers may have regarding treatments and the movement of fruit.
Van Rein said the new rule allowing the movement of bulk fruit is based on science and allows that movement as long as the fruit does not travel through a quarantined area. There are no other quarantined areas in the Central Valley, but tens of thousands of square miles are under citrus quarantine in Southern California because of psyllid discoveries there.
Officials have explained it is imperative to restrict the movement of green waste since that is what the psyllid lives on. Once fruit is cleaned and packed, it can be shipped anywhere.
Officials are also moving forward with the treatment of groves in the eradication zone and hopefully restricted zones. It will be mandatory to treat all trees in the eradication zones, but officials are urging growers within the restricted zone to treat as well.
“Beyond that [eradication zone], the growers can make their own decisions,” said Van Rein.
Officials explained that groves that are not treated can be declared a public nuisance and then the state can treat the grove.
Van Rein said if a grower wants to ship fruit, they better spray for the pest. He also explained that provisions are in place to treat abandoned groves as well.
The movement of tree stock is still prohibited in the restricted zones.
For growers in the restricted areas who will not ship to one of the approved receivers, they will have to clean and strip harvested citrus of any stems and leaves. That includes any that made be loose in the bins.
Van Rein said no more psyllids have been found in the county or Valley, adding credence to the believe that the two found were merely “hitch hikers” and not part of a breeding population.
That is important because citrus is a $750 million industry in Tulare County and more than 15,000 people work in the citrus industry in Tulare County.
Residents who believe they have seen evidence of the psyllid or HLB in a citrus tree, should call CDFA’s toll-free pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899.