FEDERAL FUNDS FOR
By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press
Thursday, June 12, 2014
It can be difficult facing weather, disease, insects, and various other contingencies beyond one's control, to work hard for little if any profit. But, it's extremely rewarding to be a farmer!
United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Associated Press in a statement Thursday that $25 million in funding comes from the 2014 Farm Bill. Another $6.5 million will be sent to projects through a group formed to combat greening.
The disease affects Florida's $9 billion citrus industry, with growers seeing problems this season. The orange crop is approaching its lowest harvest in decades. Experts blame greening.
Greening first enters the tree via the jumping plant lice known as Asian citrus psyllid. The lice suck on leaf sap and leave behind bacteria. The bacteria starve the tree of nutrients, leading to sour fruit. The tree eventually dies.
“Citrus greening represents a devastating burden on this state’s economy and we’re working around the clock to help,” he said. “The USDA’s announcement Monday is wonderful news, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of Jackie Burns of UF/IFAS and Harold Browning of CRDF and everyone else who made this happen.”
Citrus greening, known to scientists as huanglongbing, or HLB, was discovered in a backyard citrus tree in Los Angeles earlier this year and now threatens California’s citrus industry.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the grant Monday as part of a $101 million funding package to support America’s specialty crops producers, who provide fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods for millions of meals each day.
Greening has cost Florida’s economy an estimated $3.63 billion in lost revenues since 2006 and poses a huge threat to the state’s $9 billion citrus industry, the nation’s largest. It weakens and eventually kills infected trees. For now, there is no cure, although growers are using cultural management strategies to keep groves productive.
The funds announced have enabled USDA to sign cooperative agreements with Florida (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services), Texas (Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corp.), and California (Citrus Research Board and California Department of Food and Agriculture) to coordinate the fight against HLB. These joint efforts will significantly increase the production of the parasitic wasp known to control populations of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).
Florida, Texas, and California have developed biocontrol expansion plans that factor in regional elements in order to quickly bolster biocontrol production and release. This will expand the ability to control the ACP on a larger scale, especially in urban areas where citrus trees grow in yards as well as organic orchards.