The owner of a commercial nursery has won a $1.2 million judgment against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) for the destruction of citrus trees in the 2000s, AP News reported.
A jury in Orlando determined the state agency had destroyed more than 160,000 citrus plants in an effort to stop citrus greening, AP reported. The jury also determined that Gary Mahon deserved the $1.2 million as compensation at fair market value. Mahon’s company, Pokey’s Lake Gem Citrus Nursery, cultivates fruit trees in Zellwood, Florida.
FDACS had argued that Mahon did not deserve compensation since he could have avoided his losses by moving his citrus plants into greenhouses, according to the AP report. Mahon’s attorneys disputed that interpretation of the law.
In 2008, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring citrus plant growers to sell or destroy plants not grown in greenhouses to protect the state’s citrus industry from citrus greening, AP reported. Citrus greening is among the biggest threats to the U.S. citrus industry since infected trees produce fruit that is green, misshapen and bitter. The disease can eventually kill infected trees.
AP News quoted Mahon’s attorney, Alexander Clem, as saying the Florida Legislature and FDACS meant well by passing and enforcing the law, but that the law had a catastrophic impact on citrus nursery growers.
FDACS reportedly stated that it would appeal the decision.
Citrus greening, also known as HLB, has devastated the Florida citrus industry since its discovery in the state in 2005. It has dramatically reduced the amount of citrus production and the number of citrus trees in the state.
Source: AP News
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