By Danielle Leal
During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., California Citrus Mutual (CCM) representatives visited with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and members of Congress to outline several citrus industry priorities and secure funding for research. CCM President and Chief Executive Officer Casey Creamer announced during the 2022 California Citrus Conference that the Citrus Research Board received funding from the HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group to implement a California-focused Citrus Research and Field Trial project, also known as CA-CRaFT. A similar program started in 2019 in Florida.
“Florida led the way in developing a ground program … saying these are our priorities and this is how we want to spend the money to help Florida growers,” Creamer said. “We’ve followed their lead, and Texas has followed their lead. We now have a California CRaFT program, where we’re working to directly divert dollars to the Citrus Research Board, so they can get out to growers to identify solutions to address HLB and ACP (Asian citrus psyllids).”
The CA-CRaFT projects review the application of additional mitigation efforts in various commercial citrus groves and their impacts on psyllid levels. Results from the trials will be shared on both a local and national basis. The application period just ended for California citrus growers to apply for the CRaFT program, but Florida growers have until Nov. 30 to submit their projects for Cycle 4 of the program.
EXPANDED BREEDING PROGRAM
Also in the works for California’s citrus industry is the expansion of a national breeding program from USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS).
“This idea came from the Citrus Research Board saying we need to have a facility in Parlier that does breeding just like they do in Florida,” said Creamer. “It’s a national citrus program. California is the largest citrus-producing state in the county, and we have a great facility with the UC (University of California) system, but USDA ARS was not investing in varieties out in California, under our soil conditions and for the needs of our growers.”
The idea is still in the works, but Creamer feels confident (based on bipartisan work, chats with USDA and efforts from the Citrus Research Board) that money will be allocated soon. A Senate bill to be finalized in December should allocate $1.5 million for the expansion of the existing ARS breeding program in Florida to the ARS research station in Fresno County.
Creamer calls both research initiatives victories. “We didn’t solve the immigration deal. We didn’t bring all the water back to California. We didn’t solve the trade problem, but we made a substantial difference by focusing on the details of where we can actually get things done.”
Danielle Leal is a multimedia journalist for AgNet West.
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