Visalia hosts state food and ag secretary

FRESNO, Calif.

The Citrus Showcase in Visalia put the spotlight on locally grown oranges and lemons. Growers can try out new varieties and look over new equipment.

Karen Ross made her first speech as State Food and Ag Secretary to members of the valley citrus industry. One of Ross' priorities is to cut $15 million from the department budget. She explained, "The first one is that we are able to make these reductions in general fund support without harming our ability to protect agriculture, to ensure food safety and to protect agriculture from invasive species and animal diseases."

Growers learned no cuts would be made to efforts to keep the Asian Citrus Psyllid and a devastating disease it carries called Huanglongbing out of California orchards.

The citrus industry has seen tremendous growth. Six years ago small and sweet mandarin oranges grew on just 12-thousand acres around the valley.

California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said, "Today we've over 30-thousand acres in production and we know we have 5-10-thousand in the ground that we don't know about and more and more growers are planting. We're seeing growers from other commodities come into our industry."

Nelsen said a friendly competition has developed between mandarin and navel orange growers.

The industry is looking to improve packaging and the taste of its fruit.

This research project offers valuable insight to handlers and retailers on the ideal storage temperature.

UC Research Specialist Mary Lu Arpaia said, "Temperature management is really important and it influences the flavor of the fruit."

The information is important because the industry wants only the sweetest oranges on the market. Arpaia explained, "When you don't get a good piece fruit you don't come back."

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.