Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tax Dollars Go To Citrus Growers

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today expressed his appreciation to
President George W. Bush and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary
Mike Johanns for the release of $100 million to citrus growers and
citrus nurseries impacted by citrus canker. Secretary Johanns
announced the compensation yesterday as well as an interim rule that
will now allow nursery owners who had citrus trees destroyed during
the eradication effort to be eligible for funds.

"This significant influx of money goes a long way toward assisting
Florida growers and nurseries who have suffered greatly from the
impact of canker as well as two unprecedented hurricane seasons,"
Bronson said. "On behalf of our citrus industry, I appreciate the
President, his administration and USDA for providing this vital
assistance to this very important industry."

The Citrus Canker Eradication Program resulted in the destruction of
more than 10.5 million commercial citrus trees in groves and 4.3
million trees in nurseries that were infected with or exposed to the
bacterial disease. Bronson is also advising the President and USDA
that he is meeting his commitment to homeowners who lost citrus trees
as a result of the eradication program and have been awaiting
compensation. Governor Jeb Bush recently signed a budget in which
lawmakers provided $3.6 million for residential compensation. When
the new budget year goes into effect on July 1, the Department will
begin the final phase of mailing payments to homeowners and expects
to finish up the program by the end of September.

"Just as citrus growers and nurseries have waited patiently for
payments, so have homeowners," Bronson said. "I am very grateful for
their sacrifice, and while the eradication program has ended, I can
assure residents that our ability to remove canker-infected and
-exposed citrus trees from this state helped to protect homeowners
and the industry for years."

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