LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles Bronson says he is pleased the Florida Supreme Court
has issued a ruling in a citrus canker eradication compensation case that
has been before the justices for more than two years.
Bronson says the case, Patchen vs Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services leaves intact the court's previous opinion which upheld
the constitutionality of the citrus canker eradication program. The
Florida Supreme Court ruling also upholds section 581.1845, which was added
to the statute to provide compensation to eligible homeowners. The court
pointed out that the 2002 statute "clearly intends that the petitioners be
included within the homeowners covered by section 581.1845 (2)." The
plaintiff in this case, Brian Patchen is eligible for a $100 Shade Florida
voucher for the first citrus tree removed and $55.00 cash payment for every
subsequent tree removed from the property.
The Supreme Court ruling overturned a decision from the 3rd District Court
of Appeals that indicated residential citrus trees within 1900 feet of
infected ones were not due compensation. It also sends the case back to a
trial court for further proceedings.
"The Department has a constitutional duty to eliminate plant pests and
diseases from Florida," Bronson said. "Legal delays and hurricanes have
resulted in the spread of this terrible disease and we must focus our
efforts on eradication. The courts are the proper venue for any additional
interpretation of this ruling."
The Department in cooperation with the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) has been involved in the citrus canker eradication
effort since 1995. Citrus canker is a bacteria which causes premature
fruit and leaf drop, weakens citrus trees making them more susceptible to
other diseases and scars the fruit.
The Department anticipates completing the eradication of all known infected
and exposed citrus trees by July of next year. Once eradication is
declared, a two year waiting period is required before citrus can be
replanted. The CCEP has removed more than 720,000 residential citrus trees
and more than 3.2 million commercial trees during the eradication effort.