The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $20 million in funding to fight Huanglongbing (HLB) nationwide upon the recommendation of Valley Congressmen David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy. Congressman Devin Nunes also provided critical support for securing this crucial funding source for the U.S. citrus industry.
The funds are a part of the 2014 Fiscal Year Omnibus Spending bill passed by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, which will be voted on by the House and the U.S. Senate.
“California citrus is a $2 billion industry and creates over 20,000 jobs,” said CCM President Joel Nelsen. “Our local congressmen recognize the importance of this industry to the state of California as well as to the U.S. economy.”
HLB is a deadly citrus plant disease that is transmitted by a small, aphid-like insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The disease has devastated citrus industries around the world, including Florida, where it has cost growers $4.6 billion and resulted in the loss of about 8,000 jobs.
Although the disease has only been detected once in California, in a backyard citrus tree in Hacienda Heights in March 2012, the Asian citrus psyllid is now endemic in Southern California and has slowly spread into commercial producing areas as far north as Fresno County. California citrus growers have spared no expense in order to protect the industry by employing an intensive trapping and treatment program to stop the Asian citrus psyllid and prevent HLB from taking hold.
“HLB is a death sentence for all U.S. citrus,” said Nelsen. “California citrus growers have spent in excess of $70 million over the course of four years to protect the industry from this devastating disease. This $20 million appropriation demonstrates that this issue is of high priority for the Appropriations Committee and members of Congress.”
In December the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the formation of a multi-agency task force to coordinate HLB research, share information, and develop strategies to increase effectiveness. To jumpstart the initiative, USDA provided $1 million to be used in support of long- and short-term research projects.
On Thursday, January 23, Congressman Valadao and USDA-APHIS Deputy Director Osama El-Lissy held a joint hearing in Visalia to address industry questions about this task force and other efforts by USDA to protect U.S. citrus.
“This is not just an industry issue or statewide issue,” continued Nelsen. “It is encouraging that our local congressmen and USDA recognize that this is an issue of national concern and are proactively working with citrus industries across the country to identify a solution.”
California Citrus Mutual is a non-profit trade association of citrus growers, with approximately 2,200 members representing 70% of California’s 285,000-acre, $2 billion citrus industry. The mission of California Citrus Mutual is to inform, educate and advocate on behalf of citrus growers. The Exeter-based organization was founded in 1977.