Advocating for Citrus on Capitol Hill

Josh McGillCalifornia Corner, Legislative

Several California Citrus Mutual (CCM) directors and staff members recently met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials and members of Congress to discuss some of the industry’s biggest priorities. Those priorities include funding for HLB prevention activities and the upcoming 2023 farm bill. CCM directors Matt Fisher, Jared Plumlee, Keith Watkins, Zak Laffite and Julia Inestroza were accompanied on the trip by CCM President Casey Creamer and Senior Director of Federal Affairs Alyssa Houtby.

Funding for HLB prevention and the 2023 farm bill were among the topics California Citrus Mutual directors and staff addressed while in Washington, D.C.

Each year, the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees authorize funding for the nationwide Citrus Health Response Program and the HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB-MAC). In July, the House passed its appropriations “minibus” which includes the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Ag) bill. Soon thereafter, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its bills, including S. 4661 – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Both the House and Senate bills include $71.3 million for citrus health, including $11.5 million for HLB–MAC.

The California citrus industry benefits directly from each of these programs. The California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division currently receives $12.5 million to support its on-the-ground activities to prevent the spread of HLB into commercial citrus groves. The Citrus Research Board received funding from HLB-MAC to implement a California-focused Citrus Research and Field Trials project.

The Senate bill also includes $1.5 million to establish a citrus breeding research program. The intent of this funding is to expand the existing USDA breeding program in Florida to a USDA research station in Parlier, California. 

While the industry’s priorities in the 2023 budget are secured, Congress has yet to pass a budget. Congress recently passed a continuing resolution to extend 2022 funding levels through Dec. 16. Between now and then, Congress must reach an agreement on and pass the 2023 budget.

The California citrus industry also benefits from the farm bill, which is reauthorized by Congress every five years. The 2013 farm bill included, for the first time, $25 million per year for HLB research projects. The 2018 farm bill maintained this funding and established the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund (Citrus Trust Fund). The Citrus Trust Fund supports the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program. The CCM group visiting Washington advocated for the continuation of the Citrus Trust Fund in the 2023 farm bill.

Source: California Citrus Mutual

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