Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.
Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”
Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.
However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.
Marcy L. Martin was named today as the new president of the Citrus Research Board (CRB). The appointment was announced by CRB Chairman Dan Dreyer, who said that Martin was selected after a nearly year-long national search for the very best candidate to lead the organization.
Martin joins the CRB with more than 25 years of experience with California commodity organizations. She most recently served for 14 years as director of trade for the California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA), where she advocated on behalf of the state’s fresh grape, blueberry, pomegranate and deciduous tree fruit production in governmental, legislative and policy issues. Prior to that, she had been controller of the California Apple Commission for ten years.
In 2015, then U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appointed Martin to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables. In his announcement, Vilsack said of those who were appointed, “They are an invaluable asset as we work to enact trade agreements and trade policies that deliver the greatest economic benefit for U.S. agriculture and for our nation as a whole.”
“California’s citrus growers, packers and shippers have demonstrated through their keen understanding that an industry must invest in sound research to meet the challenges of a constantly evolving environment, marketplace and consumer,” said Martin. “The Citrus Research Board, industry, staff and research community have stepped up to take on looming challenges, specifically huanglongbing, that have devastated citrus production within other regions, both domestically and globally. This is an area I am passionate about, and I look forward to bringing my experience in the technical and regulatory arena to the team.”
Dreyer said, “The Board is pleased to have Marcy Martin taking the helm of CRB. Her extensive experience with commodity organizations and local, state and federal regulatory agencies will be a key ingredient to the success of CRB projects and priorities. She comes to the CRB with extensive knowledge of fresh tree fruit production and the agricultural use of plant protection products. Our Board members were impressed by her dedication to and passion for agriculture.”
“The California citrus industry is an important economic contributor and an icon of the Golden State,” Martin said. “Citrus is part of our American and Californian agricultural footprint – a commodity we need to preserve and foster. I’m honored to be part of this continuing tradition.”
Martin officially will join the CRB on October 1 and will be based out of the CRB headquarters in Visalia, California. She will take the reins from Interim President Franco Bernardi.
“We cannot thank Franco enough for his dedicated service to the CRB throughout the past year,” said Dreyer. “He did an excellent job in guiding the organization through a challenging period, and the Board has been truly grateful for his leadership.”
This week the Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1 by Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins.
SB 1 proposes dangerous changes to how the state implements the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and will have devastating impacts on how water is managed in California.
The bill seeks to preserve environmental regulations against perceived rollbacks by the Trump Administration by empowering state agencies to immediately adopt the “baseline” standard in place before January 19, 2017 (the day before President Trump was inaugurated).
As currently written, SB 1 would lock in the existing biological opinions that determine how much water must flow out of the Delta to protect native fish species. This directly influences how much water is available to ALL water users south of the Delta.
The State and Federal agencies are currently in the process of updating the biological opinions, which will result in lower flows and more water for communities and agriculture. But, by locking in the existing biological opinions, SB 1 prohibits State from using the best available science to manage how water moves through the Delta.
Recent amendments do not go far enough to address the ESA provisions.
California Citrus Mutual and many other agricultural and business-sector groups have proposed constructive amendments to address these concerns. The Pro Tem’s office, however, did not make substantive changes to the bill before it was passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday despite pressure from the Governor’s Office.
The Legislature will adjourn next Friday and it is imperative that SB 1 be amended THIS WEEK.
We are calling on our Assembly Members and Senators to urge the Senate Pro Tem to accept amendments to the ESA section.
Please click on the link below to send a letter to your representatives asking them to support amendments to the ESA section in SB 1.
To provide California citrus growers with a strong toolbox of science-supported strategies and tactics to protect their orchards from Huanglongbing (HLB), the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee endorsed a set of best practices for growers to voluntarily employ in response to HLB in California.
The recommendations—which were developed based on a grower’s proximity to an HLB detection—represent the most effective tools known to the citrus industry at this time and are meant to supplement the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s required regulatory response. The best practices were developed by a task force consisting of growers from various regions across the state and scientists, all of whom were nominated by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee.
Voluntary best practices were developed for growers in the four following scenarios:
The best practices vary in each scenario but all address: awareness, scouting for the Asian citrus psyllid, controlling Asian citrus psyllids with treatments, protecting young trees and replants, employing barriers or repellents, visually surveying for HLB, testing psyllid and plant material for HLB using a direct testing method like polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and tending to trees’ root health. The voluntary best practices in all four scenarios can be found at CitrusInsider.org.
While HLB has not yet been detected in a commercial grove in California, the disease continues to spread throughout residential communities of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties. HLB has infected more than 1,400 citrus trees, and 1,003 square miles are currently in an HLB quarantine area.
“Our state’s citrus industry has held the line against HLB since the first detection seven years ago. We should commend our efforts but must not forget the devastating impact HLB could have on our orchards and our livelihood,” said Jim Gorden, chair of the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program and a citrus grower in Tulare County.
“We know the cost to manage the Asian citrus psyllid is far less than any potential costs or loss to the industry should HLB take hold throughout our state. These voluntary best practices are meant to serve as a box of tools so growers can use as many as are feasible for their operation in order to limit the spread of the psyllid and disease,” said Keith Watkins, chair of the task force that developed the best practices and vice president of farming at Bee Sweet Citrus.
The severe effects of the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease on Florida citrus is cause for California growers to take important preventative measures to ensure the safety of their trees. Keith Watkins, vice president of outside operations for Bee Sweet Citrus, has seen the damage firsthand and has been hard at work to protect his trees.
“I’ve been to Florida, and I’ve seen how devastating the disease can be,” he said. “We have to spend money now to basically prevent that from happening to us.”
There are currently around 1100 trees that have tested positive for HLB in the Orange County and Anaheim-Garden Grove areas, but they are mainly backyard citrus trees. Luckily, Watkins said that the disease has not yet been traced in commercial operations.
Keeping HLB out of commercial growth is the biggest challenge growers face. There is not yet a cure for the disease, but according to Watkins, growers can help prevent it from reaching their crops by staying on top of killing psyllids when spotted. “We have to stay diligent. Our future really is maintaining a psyllid free population,” he said.
Recently, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that they are going to begin the cancellation process of chlorpyrifos. The statement cites scientific findings that chlorpyrifos poses serious public health and environmental risks to vulnerable communities.
“The decision to ban chlorpyrifos is not surprising given the significant pressure from anti-pesticide groups, active legislative proposals, regulatory proceedings, and ongoing court battles,” said CCM President Casey Creamer. “However, this decision relies heavily on an evaluation that was significantly flawed and based upon unrealistic modeling scenarios that are not verifiable by actual results in DPR’s own air monitoring network.”
“California Citrus Mutual and our member growers stand by science that is sound, that properly evaluates risks and puts forward appropriate safeguards to protect ourselves, our employees, and our surrounding communities. We are committed to safe and effective use of chlorpyrifos and other crop protection tools.”
“The process for which this chemical was evaluated was purposely exaggerated to achieve the desired outcome and jeopardizes the scientific credibility of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. This decision sets a terrible precedent for future evaluations and creates a chilling effect on companies planning on making significant investments to bring new products to the market in California.”
“The citrus industry is fighting feverishly to protect itself from the deadly citrus disease, Huanglongbing,” Creamer continued. “In order to do so, we must have the necessary tools in the toolbox for an effective Integrated Pest Management program.”
“The once mighty citrus-producing state of Florida has lost 70% of its production due to this disease, which is expanding exponentially in residential citrus trees in Southern California at this very moment. While our commercial growers will remain vigilant, it is vital that our policymakers recognize the seriousness of the threat and ensure sound scientific procedures are followed.”
“California Citrus Mutual will continue to be actively engaged in the regulatory processes around the cancellation decision and will continue to explore all potential remedies to allow the safe and effective use of chlorpyrifos.”
Collaborative changes are being made to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP). Beth Grafton-Cardwell is the director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center near Exeter, as well as a research entomologist with UC Riverside. She recently spoke at the 2019 Citrus Showcase in Visalia as a key speaker on the state of Huanglongbing (HLB) in California, with an overview of how to prevent ACP,—which vectors HLB, a fatal disease to citrus—from moving around the state.
“We were trying to communicate why we’ve made the changes we’ve made for the industry that has been a collaborative effort between CDFA, growers, and the university,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We need better ways to prevent psyllids from moving around the state because they might have HLB in their bodies, and we’ve got to prevent the spread of the disease.”
The Florida citrus industry did not do a great job in containing the Psyllid, and now HLB is rampant in the state’s citrus industry, which has devastated the citrus economy there.
“Florida found that they did not do much to control psyllid movement, and they found that psyllids were moving in bulk citrus bins and retail nursery plants around the state, and within a concise amount of time, they spread the Psyllid and the disease everywhere,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “We’re trying to avoid that. We have 100% tarping of citrus truckloads. We have treatments that have to be done if growers want to move citrus between major zones in California, so that we can prevent that kind of movement.”
Conversations continue about quarantine areas in California to reduce spread.
“There’s been a lot of discussion regarding quarantines because it’s painful for some growers who have low Psyllid numbers to have to treat and to move their fruit to other zones.”
“There’s been a lot of questions. We did a lot of scientific analysis to look at impacts as well as numbers. It’s not just about psyllid numbers; it’s about their impact if growers were to move the disease into a high citrus growing region,” Grafton-Cardwell explained.
For more than two centuries, citrus has grown strong in California’s yards and groves—serving as a source of nourishment, income, and tradition for many different individuals—but the citrus industry is at risk due to Huanglongbing’s (HLB) growing presence in California.
In 2018, HLB was found in more than 600 residential citrus trees in Southern California, and despite the program’s thorough surveying efforts, HLB has not been found in a commercial grove, but we must continue to hold strong. It has never been more important for all of us— including the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP), regulatory authorities, the citrus industry, the scientific community, and others—to work together to prevent the spread of the disease and save California’s citrus industry.
While much has changed since the citrus industry came together ten years ago to support the creation of the CPDPP, one constant remains: the program’s dedication to fighting HLB. This year, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Committee (CPDPC) created a strategic plan for combatting HLB now and in the future. The plan identified five prioritized strategies to achieve CPDPP’s goals of keeping HLB out of commercial groves, limiting Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) movement in the state and fine-tuning the program. In addition, the program agreed to align its annual budget in support of the strategies, which can be viewed in this report.
With this plan comes additional responsibilities for all individuals involved. The CPDPC understands HLB isn’t the only issue posing a threat to your business and our industry – but it’s one we can’t ignore. This report highlights the many activities the program and our partners are doing across the state to protect commercial groves from HLB, but we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Looking forward, much is at stake for California citrus growers, packers and workers as the industry faces its biggest threat yet in HLB. I encourage you to connect with the program, your local pest control district, or task force, and follow best practices for managing the ACP and HLB. If we sit idle, hoping others will take action for our benefit, we are welcoming this devastating disease into our groves.
But, by working together, we can protect California’s commercial citrus industry from devastation—sustaining our livelihood and the legacy of California citrus.
For more information on the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program Click here.
It’s been a tough road for citrus growers since the discovery of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) back in 2012. Those affected have been forced to quarantine their crops, a task that Beth Grafton-Cardwell, director of Lindcove Research Extension Center in Tulare and research entomologist with UC Riverdale, said can be difficult.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about the quarantines because they’ve been painful for some growers who have low psyllid numbers to have to treat them and move their fruit to other zones,” Cardwell explained.
The growing concerns have led to continuous research regarding whether or not the zones should be changed.
There have been more than 1,100 citrus trees that have tested positive for HLB. There have been more than 230 positive finds of the psyllid, and although this sounds like a big number, Cardwell said its actually normal due to how difficult the disease is to detect.
“We can’t tell that the tree is infected early on because a localized infection might be on one stem of the entire tree, and it might take a year before it moves throughout the tree,” she said.
Right now, quadrant sampling is being done, where four quadrants of the tree are sampled for the disease. Current samples are showing that one in four quadrants are coming back positive.
“It’s finding the trees that are infected that’s really difficult, and meanwhile, the psyllid is spreading, spreading, spreading the disease,” Cardwell said.
More information can be found at this link: