By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
VISALIA – The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) that transmits the citrus killing disease Huanglongbing (HLB) has decimated Florida’s citrus industry by nearly two-thirds. It has made its way through Texas and has arrived in force in southern California. According to a Tulare County Board of Supervisors staff report the disease has placed agriculture officials and growers on high alert, particularly here.
Much has been done to determine how to avoid ACP, but few results have been effective. As of last Tuesday, Nov. 14 the Tulare County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that approves a budget transfer of $250,000 from Miscellaneous Administration to the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office to remove untreated or uncared for citrus trees. The removal is meant to prevent the salubrious environment that attracts ACP and spreads HLB.
“We’re putting up general fund dollars for this, so that should show how much we care about [ACP’s] impact to the county and the economy,” stated district one board supervisor Kuyler Crocker.
According to Crocker, citrus crops that are left untreated or uncared for still have some life. He said that natural rainfall is enough to help them stay alive even though they may not be able to produce fruit. Even the moderate amount of life felt in the tree is enough to attract ACP which will then spread to other much more lively producing crops.
“If we can remove abandoned orchards that aren’t being treated or cared for and prevent the psyllid from finding a host here to there to land on, we’ll be preventing HLB from coming as well,” said deputy agricultural commissioner Tom Tucker.
Growers and personnel in the citrus industry spoke during public comment to pledge their support for the measure and state how dangerous HLB is to citrus.
Dan Dreyer from Exeter, who is a citrus producer and says that he works for a major citrus producing company that grows state wide said that ACP and HLB is a death sentence for the industry. He also cited an annual citrus conference he regularly attends.
“Science needs more time. By Controlling the psyllid we can delay the onset of HLB,” Dreyer said. “This is the last place in the world where we can grow citrus without HLB, lets keep it that way.”
John Conda, who runs a citrus grove in the Terra Bella and Porterville area said that a quarter million dollars is not enough. He claimed that there are hundreds of dead citrus acres in the county. And as of now the County is unsure how many acres they would have to remove if they wanted to tackle the whole problem.
“I think that $250,000 is a drop in the bucket based on what you’ll experience,” said Conda.
“It really probably is a drop in the bucket for what is really needed out there, but I’ll say that the County has had some experience in these self handled programs,” stated Board chairman Pete Vander Poel.
Moving forward the County will notice property owners that the County will be hiring vendors and removing the trees. Crocker said that it is likely far less expensive for the property owners to hire a vendor and take care of the issue on their own. He says that as a private citizen they can negotiate a price but when dealing with government entities they go out to bid and the lowest responsive bid gets the contract. Also, the County will be reimbursed the money for the removal through a lien on the property.
Tucker said that the estimated cost of removal is approximately $500 per acre.