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California Budget Adds Funds to Fight HLB

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, Legislative

California State Capitol

California is adding funds to help the fight against HLB. Governor Brown signed the 2017 Budget Act this week, which authorizes $10 million to fight the spread of the invasive Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) insect and the deadly and incurable plant disease it can carry, huanglongbing (HLB).

“California Citrus Mutual applauds Governor Brown and members of the California Legislature for recognizing the severity of this issue to not only the state’s citrus growers, but to the California economy and the many homeowners who enjoy citrus trees in their backyards,” says Joel Nelsen, president of the citrus grower trade association California Citrus Mutual.

HLB has devastated citrus production worldwide. In Florida, commercial production has plummeted by over 70 percent, resulting in average annual economic losses of 7,945 jobs, $658 million in value-added product and $1.098 billion in industry output, according to a recent report by the University of Florida.

“We know from what has happened in Florida that there are real and lasting economic consequences if HLB is allowed to take hold,” continues Nelsen. “California citrus is a $3.6 billion industry and supports over 22,000 jobs, all of which could be lost if HLB is not stopped.”

California is the largest fresh-market, citrus-producing region in the world and one of few areas that have not been affected by HLB, but that could change if it is allowed to spread. So far, the disease has been found in 73 backyard citrus trees in the Los Angeles Basin, triggering quarantines in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“HLB is spreading at an alarming rate, and the addition of state funds will provide critically needed resources to help protect all citrus trees and prevent HLB from devastating the state’s vibrant citrus industry,” concludes Nelsen.

The state funds will augment the nearly $25 million currently spent each year by commercial citrus growers for pest detection and eradication, including the release of beneficial insects for biological control of ACP in residential areas and ongoing public outreach and education.

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About the Author

Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West