Thursday, December 12, 2013

$9 Billion Fed Funds Earmarked For Orange Tree Disease

Federal officials today unveiled a stepped-up effort to combat a citrus-killing disease that’s threatening to decimate Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry.

The plan, announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and urged by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), creates the framework for a new coordinated effort between federal, state and industry officials to fight the deadly disease that has infected crops in Florida, California, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

The disease, commonly known as citrus greening, produces green, bitter and misshapen fruit. According to a study done last year by the University of Florida, citrus greening has cost the state’s economy $4.5 billion and 8,000 jobs between 2006 and 2012.

Citrus greening is named for the green, misshapen, and bitter-tasting fruit it causes. While this bacterial disease poses no danger to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad. 

In the United States, the entire States of Florida and Georgia are under quarantine for HLB, and portions of California, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas are also under quarantine for the disease. The U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are under HLB quarantines as well.

“If we don’t find a cure soon, we won’t be growing oranges in Florida much longer,” Nelson said.

The Florida lawmaker, two years ago, helped secure $11 million to fund the research into finding a cure. In a teleconference with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last year, they announced the remaining $9 million of that money would be available right away and not spread out over four years as originally planned.

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