Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner is asking for close to $20 million in this year’s budget to combat citrus greening. This comes as the most recent forecast is showing a further citrus crop decline.
Following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, says citrus growers have it hard.
“We’re in the fight for the industry’s life,” said State Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, following Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. “Florida’s signature crop continues to decline, continues to feel the effects as a result of the spread of citrus greening.”
Last year, Florida’s citrus industry produced about 104 million boxes—which Florida Department of Agriculture Spokeswoman Erin Gillespie says is the lowest on record.
“That’s down about 60 percent from the high of 254 million about, not even quite 10 years ago,” said Gillespie. “So, the estimate this year for the year upcoming is now at 103 million boxes, even less than last year.”
And, she says the predicted decline by the U.S. Department of Agriculture can be attributed to citrus greening—a devastating bacterial plant disease—which is why her agency is asking for the $18 million.
“So, it’s not good news for the citrus industry, and the Commissioner is committed to helping them fight that fight, and this budget request is part of that. In the last ten years, about $230 million has been contributed to research. The growers themselves have contributed $80 million of that, which is a very large number. So, we’re all working together to kind of save this industry,” Gillespie added.
And, Commissioner Putnam says both officials and growers are very hopeful for the research.
“We have promising research leads, but we do not have a treatment or a cure at this time, and it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach from the growers themselves, the state and federal governments, to try to fund the necessary research to fast track whatever promising leads we have to deploy them in the groves to try to save a $9 billion industry for Florida,” said Putnam.
In addition to the research, Putnam says the $18 million will go towards growing clean citrus stock and replanting where diseased trees have been removed.
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