The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it’s creating an emergency plan to coordinate research on a disease ravaging Florida’s citrus crops. Citrus greening infects most of Florida’s commercial orange groves and threatens a $9 billion industry.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday the federal agency needs to better coordinate with state and local officials and people in the citrus industry to fight back. The department has spent $250 million over the past four years – that’s in addition to millions in industry-funded research.
The new plan is to invest an additional $1 million of federal money and to put the feds in charge of prioritizing and coordinating new greening research nationwide.
"This announcement really addresses the urgency of the current problem of greening," Mike Sparks, CEO of the Lakeland, Fla.-based Florida Citrus Mutual, told the Associated Press. "This new initiative announced by Secretary Vilsack could not have come at a better time."