Asian Citrus Psyllid threating Valley's biggest crop

A new multi-agency task force has been started to combat a tiny bug that has the potential to kill citrus trees.
January 23, 2014 5:30:46 PM PST
A new multi-agency task force has been started to combat a tiny bug that has the potential to kill citrus trees.

Congressman David Valadao secured $20 million to study and research the Asian Citrus Psyllid. Dozens of the bugs have been found in Tulare County -- leaving some growers worried about whether it could devastate the industry.

Central Valley citrus leaders, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Hanford Congressman David Valadao gathered at the Holiday Inn in Visalia to announce a brand new multi-agency task force that will take $20 million of federal money and use it to try and combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid.

"This money right now is to help research projects and different types of processes to make sure that we know where how what's going on," said Valadao. " It's almost like law enforcement for pest control."

This tiny bug feeds off citrus trees and, if carrying the disease huanglongbing or HLB, can kill them. But the bug stays dormant, and it could be years before you know your citrus crop has been destroyed.

Growers and the USDA say there's still not enough that's known about how to stop it. The disease has already devastated 250,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida, that's more than the entire Central Valley citrus belt.

In recent years, Ag officials discovered more than a dozen psyllids in Tulare County with many groves still under quarantines.

Citrus Grower Kevin Severns said, "We certainly encourage and applaud the research we are not hoping for endless research projects this is an issue we need some pretty quick answers to."

So what will the $20 million pay for? Studying, research, and collaboration that many growers hope will yield results, and fast.

"Citrus obviously is a very important crop in the United States," said Osama El-LIssy. "It's an iconic American crop. It's very important to our economy."

As for who will be on the task force, USDA, and citrus industry officials from California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona, all states that have seen some of the devastating effects from this disease.


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