Growers reaffirm, CDFA announces continuation of California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program
SACRAMENTO – California citrus growers recently affirmed the extension of a cooperative effort to fund research and educate the public about the most serious threat to the state’s citrus crops.
On July 20, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that growers agreed to continue to charge themselves a fee to fund the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP). The program is funded by growers through an assessment on every 40-pound carton of commercial citrus produced. The assessment generates an average of $18 million each year.
“It has never been more important to protect California’s citrus farmers, which represent a $3 billion economic driver for our state and 20,000 jobs,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The feedback CDFA received from the industry was overwhelmingly supportive of this program.”
Five hearings were held in June in citrus production areas to determine whether the program and its governing committee, both established in 2009, should continue for four more years. All comments received at the public hearings and in written submissions to the Department were supportive. No question of opposition was raised. Therefore, the Department determined a referendum is not warranted.
“This program has evolved as the threat of the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing has progressed in the state, which is one of the reasons we’ve been successful at keeping the disease out of commercial groves,” said Nick Hill, chairman of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee. “Having learned from our partners in Florida, outreach has occurred throughout the state and to urban areas, treatment coordinators have been engaged to make sure growers are working together for maximum effectiveness against the pest, and scientific research has been supported.”
Huanglongbing is fatal for citrus trees and has no cure. The disease has been detected in more than 70 citrus trees in California, which have all been in urban areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties and have been removed. CPDPP) guides efforts to limit spread of the disease and the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), which can spread HLB from tree to tree as it feeds.
California’s Central Valley and more importantly Tulare County, where the crop is a billion dollar industry, is the last bastion of HLB-free commercial citrus groves. The disease has devastated commercial production of oranges in both Florida and Texas. In California, residential citrus trees are the biggest threat to the disease spreading. Citrus researchers estimate that about 60% of California homes have some type of citrus tree, or about 10 million backyards. The problem is further complicated because pesticides cannot be applied in residential areas. Efforts to control the pest biologically, such as a parasitic wasp that is a natural enemy of the psyllid, are expensive and less effective than chemicals.
Continuation of the program reinforces the collaboration of the citrus industry, agriculture officials, researchers and the general public as they work together to save California citrus from HLB.
Florida’s citrus industry has been decimated by the disease. An estimated 68.7 million boxes of citrus were harvested during Florida’s 2016-2017 harvest season compared to a record high of 244 million in 1997-1998.