California Citrus Farmers Prepare For War against Citrus Greening Disease

October 19, 2009 11:23:52 PM PDT
Citrus growers will soon be paying a one-cent sur-charge for each carton of fruit they produce. Many feel it is money well-spent because it will be used to establish a war chest against a dangerous pest.Oranges east of Fresno represent an industry worth over a billion dollars to California. Growers say the threat of Citrus Greening Disease is very real.

The disease carried by the Asian Citrus Psyllid has devastated Florida citrus. Ted Batkin of the Citrus Research Board says the pest has been discovered in Southern California but without the bacterium.

Batkin said, "What we learned from Florida was that to find the Psyllid early and test all the trees and the Psyllids for the bacterium. That way we can find it early enough to keep it from getting to epidemic proportions."

Citrus Greening Disease, also known as Huanglongbing, makes fruit bitter and misshapen, and ultimately kills the tree.

Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill which in part imposes a one-cent per carton charge for citrus growers. One-cent a carton might not sound like much but it adds up quickly.

"We're anticipating this first year to raise about a million dollars to support the program. The growers were pushing it. This was their initiative. The entire industry has told us as leadership to go out to do everything we can to fight this pest," said Batkin.

The fund would be used to step up the trapping process in the Valley and for lab costs to check as much local fruit as possible.

While citrus growers will be see the one-cent surcharge for every 40-pound carton this year ... Batkin says that number could climb to as high as nine cents a carton in the future.

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