In a bipartisan effort, 17 U.S. representatives from Florida sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking him to reconsider the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to allow importation of five types of Chinese fresh citrus to the United States.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, along with leaders of citrus and other agricultural groups, have already expressed their dissatisfaction with USDA’s decision and have asked Perdue to reverse it. (Read more here.)
The letter to Perdue from members of Congress, dated April 24, was signed by Reps. Darren Soto, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Ted Deutch, Val Demings, Brian Mast, Mario Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson Jr., Bill Posey, Stephanie Murphy, Greg Steube, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford and Michael Waltz.
“Although the USDA Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) suggests that this citrus can be safely imported with a systems approach, on behalf of the Florida citrus industry, we respectfully disagree with this opinion,” states the letter to Perdue.
“As you are well aware, over twenty pests and disease of quarantine significance could follow the pathway of this citrus fruit originating in China. The systems approach suggested by APHIS would require strict compliance by growers, packers and shippers to minimize the already documented risk,” continues the letter. “These diseases pose a significant risk to Florida citrus and many other specialty crops. Quite like the 2005 introduction of citrus greening disease, Huanglongbing, into Florida’s citrus industry … additional invasive species could be devastating to the entire Florida agricultural industry.”
The members of Congress who authored the letter also pointed out that given the pandemic and recent hurricanes, it is unfair to ask Florida growers to compete against international producers in an already reduced domestic market.