The California State Assembly approved a bill that will allow the citrus industry to increase fees to provide funds for activities to protect residential and commercial citrus trees from the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly huanglongbing (HLB) plant disease it can carry.
SB 243 by Senator Galgiani (Stockton) allows for an additional $9.6 million in grower assessments to be spent by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for ACP and HLB control programs.
Because assessment funds are collected by the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, which is managed by CDFA, the spending authority level for the program is granted by the legislature.
SB 243 was passed unanimously by the Senate, and the State Assembly followed suit. The governor is expected to sign the bill by the end of the month.
HLB-infected trees are being found at an alarming rate in residential areas in Los Angeles and Orange counties. In the past 12 months, the number of detections has more than tripled. “If ACP is left unchecked, and HLB is allowed to take hold, it will be a death sentence for California’s $3 billion citrus industry,” says California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen.
“Our Central Valley senators and assembly members were instrumental in moving this legislation,” says Nelsen. “In particular, CCM would like to thank Senator Galgiani and Assembly Member Mathis for championing the bill and communicating to their urban colleagues the seriousness of this issue to all citrus trees in California.”
The grower-funded Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program was created through legislation in 2009 and authorized an assessment on growers. Growers have since invested over $100 million into the program, over 95 percent of which goes to trapping, treatments and surveys in urban areas in order stop ACP and HLB from devastating the California citrus industry, as it has in other parts of the country and world. The program receives federal funding to augment HLB detection analyses and public communications efforts. The governor and legislature, however, have repeatedly denied industry requests for state funding.
“Year after year, the issue has expanded, and yet the state has remained a silent partner despite the industry’s investment and generous support from the federal government,” comments Nelsen. “With every new detection of HLB in the urban areas, California is one step closer to succumbing to the same fate as Florida, where their citrus industry has all but collapsed due to HLB. California still has an opportunity to stop HLB, but the state must be a partner if we are to be successful.”
California Citrus Mutual is currently seeking state funding in the 2017-18 budget.
“The state has until June 15 to pass its budget, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure funding for ACP and HLB control is included,” concludes Nelsen.
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