LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
Charles H. Bronson today commended President George W. Bush and United
States Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns for securing nearly
$54 million in emergency funding for the state's Citrus Canker Eradication
Program (CCEP). The funding will enable the Department and the USDA to
move forward with an expedited eradication program. Hendry County has the
greatest numbers of citrus trees in Florida.
"This additional funding is critical to moving forward with a more
aggressive tree removal program in commercial citrus groves," Bronson said.
"I am extremely appreciative of not only the financial resources but also
the fact that it sends a clear message that the federal government is 100
percent behind this eradication effort."
The devastating spread of citrus canker resulting from the unprecedented
2004 hurricane season as well as several storms during the 2005 season
prompted the Citrus Canker Eradication Program to launch a more aggressive,
expedited eradication plan. Prior to the 2004 storms, all known infected
and exposed commercial trees -- approximately 15,000 acres -- had been
removed. The hurricanes spread the disease to dozens of commercial groves,
impacting an additional 60,000 acres. The cooperative eradication effort
called for a massive "sentinel survey" of all commercial citrus, including
in areas not known to have canker to determine exactly where the disease is
located. While infected trees are removed within days of discovery, the
infusion of more funds enables the Department to step up removal of exposed
citrus trees in commercial growing areas.
"The good news is that the number of new infection in groves continues to
decline and I believe that indicates we are getting ahead of the disease,"
Bronson said. "The fact that we are involved in such an aggressive
eradication program has prevented the closing of shipments of Florida
citrus to other markets and helped to limit the exposure areas to less than
6 percent of the commercial citrus trees in Florida and I am very
appreciative of our federal partners for their help."
Citrus canker is a serious bacteria disease that causes premature fruit and
leaf drop, scars the fruit and makes the trees susceptible to other
diseases. There is no known cure and scientific research conducted in
Florida shows that removal of infected trees and those located within 1,900
feet, considered exposed, is the only successful method of eradication.
The emergency funds will enable the accelerated tree removal program to
continue and program officials anticipate that all known infected and
exposed commercial citrus trees will be out by the end of November, barring
any significant weather event.