Growers discuss issues at Citrus Showcase in Visalia

Growers gathered in Visalia for the annual Citrus Showcase to talk about the issues that are putting many on edge.
March 6, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The citrus industry is a $2 billion business in California. After battling freezes and a pest, growers are now facing another fight for their crops.

The Central Valley is home to the majority of the state's citrus industry. On Thursday, growers from across the state gathered in Visalia for the annual Citrus Showcase to talk about the issues that are putting many on edge.

"We've got colleagues down and members in Terra Bella Irrigation District that trees are literally going to die by the end of the year if they don't get any water whatsoever," said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelson.

Nelson says the ongoing drought could have devastating impacts on the Ag community. At the showcase, growers took a look at the technology and resources that could help.

"That's pretty much what everyone is out here to see what's going to happen? How can we better ourselves with the little bit of water we have?" said Tony Canales, a Madera farm supervisor.

State water officials were on hand to explain what they're doing when it comes to water supply and delivery.

"We know how critical this is, the problem is we can't make it rain," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. "So the issue is figuring out how do you allocate those water resources in line with contract and state water rights?"

Besides the drought, growers are also on the watch for the Asian citrus psyllid -- the tiny insect that carries a deadly plant disease that could wipe out crops.

"It is a battle, and the whole western hemisphere is looking to California as to how we do this," said Nelson.

Officials say the citrus industry has been hit hard -- first by the citrus psyllid, then a December freeze, and now the drought could stop all they've worked for. With so much uncertainty in the future, growers say gathering at events like this not only provides them with connections, information and resources, but all things they'll need in the future to fight for their farms.

Officials tell Action News that with spring quickly approaching and unusually warm temperatures, they'll soon need water to start growing fruit, and if they can't get it, there may be no crop.


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