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Hearings provide checkpoint on continuing efforts in response to citrus disease Huanglongbing in California
SACRAMENTO - July 24, 2017 –California growers have affirmed the extension of a cooperative effort in response to the most serious threat to the state’s citrus crops. Years before the discovery of the citrus pest the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) in California in 2008 and the subsequent detection in 2012 of Huanglongbing (HLB), the disease spread by the ACP, California’s citrus growers had begun preparations for the arrival of this dual threat. Research and education efforts began well before the pest and disease were detected in Southern California, and since then a governing committee of citrus industry representatives has guided the state’s comprehensive response and advised the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
Huanglongbing is fatal for citrus trees and has no cure. The disease has been detected in more than 70 citrus trees in California, which have all been in urban areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties and have been removed. The Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP) — funded through industry assessments and state and federal funds — guides efforts to limit spread of the disease and the ACP, which can spread HLB from tree to tree as it feeds.
The program was created in 2009 by legislation that included requirements for periodic hearings to review progress and give the industry and the public an opportunity to weigh in. Following a recent series of such hearings, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has determined it will continue the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program.
“It has never been more important to protect California’s citrus farmers, which represent a $3 billion economic driver for our state and 20,000 jobs,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The feedback CDFA received from the industry was overwhelmingly supportive of this program.”
Five hearings were held in June in citrus production areas to determine whether the program and its governing committee, both established in 2009, should continue for four more years. All comments received at the public hearings and in written submissions to the Department were supportive. No question of opposition was raised. Therefore, the Department determined a referendum is not warranted.
“This program has evolved as the threat of the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing has progressed in the state, which is one of the reasons we’ve been successful at keeping the disease out of commercial groves,” said Nick Hill, chairman of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee. “Having learned from our partners in Florida, outreach has occurred throughout the state and to urban areas, treatment coordinators have been engaged to make sure growers are working together for maximum effectiveness against the pest, and scientific research has been supported.”
Continuation of the program reinforces the collaboration of the citrus industry, agriculture officials, researchers and the general public as they work together to save California citrus from HLB. Florida’s citrus industry has been decimated by the disease. An estimated 68.7 million boxes of citrus were harvested during Florida’s 2016-2017 harvest season compared to a record high of 244 million in 1997-1998
Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee meetings are open to the public. For a calendar of upcoming meetings, visit cdfa.ca.gov/citruscommittee/. For regional and statewide news related to citrus pests and diseases, sign up for emails at citrusinsider.org/.