CCM appoints current Executive Vice President and veteran agriculture industry representative. Current President, Joel Nelsen to step down after 37 years at the helm and assume new role within the organization.
The California Citrus Mutual (CCM) Board of Directors has named current Executive Vice President Casey Creamer as its new President and CEO effective February 1st. Creamer came to CCM last February after a national search process to eventually assume the role of President. He succeeds Joel Nelsen, who has guided CCM for the last 37 years.
“The citrus industry is very fortunate to have had an individual of Joel’s caliber the last 37 years. That kind of loyalty is not only rare, it’s unheard of,” Board Chairman Curt Holmes said. “Joel has taken a relatively small industry and has given us a huge voice. We’ve faced many challenges over the years and have addressed them head on with his energy and passion leading the way. We are incredibly grateful to him for his service and we appreciate his willingness to stay engaged in the industry.
“We are also very excited to have Casey on board as our new President and CEO,” continued Holmes. “The Board conducted an extensive search process and interviewed viable candidates from across the country. We ultimately found the right person in our own backyard. His prior experience working for a sister commodity organization and his work representing growers on water issues made him an ideal selection. Over the last year, his knowledge of the citrus industry has greatly expanded, and he has quickly become a valuable member of the CCM team on behalf of the industry.”
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve,” Creamer said. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best leaders over my career and have nothing but respect and admiration for the job that Joel has done advancing issues important to the citrus industry. I’m looking forward to carrying on the many successful traditions at CCM, while constantly seeking new ideas and pathways to address the significant challenges we face. With the enthusiasm and commitment that exists in this industry, I am confident that together, we tackle any obstacle thrown our way.”
Central Valley Citrus Growers Prepare for Cold Weather
Central Valley citrus growers are anticipating subfreezing temperatures over the weekend. Forecasts show colder temperatures throughout the Valley Friday evening through Sunday morning, with the coldest areas expected to dip into the upper 20s and possibly the mid-20s.
Growers are prepared to implement frost protection measures if temperatures drop below freezing. This includes the use of irrigation water and wind machines to elevate grove temperatures by 3 to 5 degrees, thus mitigating the potential for frost to occur.
Generally, navel varieties can tolerate temperatures as low as 27 degrees without risk for damage, whereas Mandarin varieties tend to be susceptible to damage at temperatures below 32. The key factor is the duration of time at or below these thresholds. The potential for damage increases when cold temperatures persist for several hours.
At this time, forecasts do not suggest a critical freeze event will occur this weekend; however, growers will certainly be watching the temperature closely and activating freeze precautions as necessary.
According to the 2017 county crop report data, 90 percent of California’s commercial citrus crop is grown in Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties. This represents a total crop value of $3.1 billion. Statewide, citrus is a $3.8 billion crop.
California Citrus Mutual Commends Congress for Action on 2018 Farm Bill
This week, the U.S. Senate and the House passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation will direct agricultural policy and authorize funding for key agricultural programs in the federal government for the next 5 years.
President Trump has the opportunity to enact the 2018 Farm Bill before the end of the year.
CCM President Joel Nelsen offers the following statement:
“California Citrus Mutual applauds the Farm Bill conferees and House and Senate Ag Committees for moving forward a bill that includes priority programs for specialty crop producers. Jeff Denham, Jim Costa, and Jimmy Panetta were crucial voices for California farmers on the House Ag Committee. Along with Representatives Julia Brownley, Ken Calvert, and David Valadao, the California Members were instrumental to securing funding for research, trade and market enhancement, and pest and disease prevention that will directly benefit California specialty crop producers.
“With support from Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes and Senators Feinstein and Harris, key programs and funding for the U.S. citrus industry will continue in the next Farm Bill.
“The U.S. citrus industry will receive funding to continue priority research to identify a solution to Huanglongbing, a devastating plant disease that is threatening the sustainability of our domestic citrus industry. This is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers.
“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I thank the Congressmen and Congresswoman, our U.S. Senators, and our colleagues in the specialty crop industry who worked diligently over the past several months to create a bipartisan Farm Bill that provides crucial resources to ensure our farmers can continue providing nutritious produce to Americans and people around the world.”
The 2018 Farm Bill includes $25 million per year for 5 years starting in 2019 for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB). This Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill and complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB.
The legislation also includes funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers. TASC has been in operation for over fifteen years and was created to address sanitary and phytosanitary issues and technical barriers to trade that prohibit or threaten exports of U.S. specialty crops.
More California Ag News
Many Questions Around SGMA Law SGMA Law is Poorly Written
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
A recent meeting brought farmers and other stakeholders to California State University, Fres...
The spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) continues to be a looming threat for Central Valley citrus growers as it vectors Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease that destroys citrus trees. Greg Douhan, a University of California Cooperative Extension Tulare County citrus farm advisor reported to California Ag Today recently that, “There have been so many people onboard really working at this from multiple angles, and we’re in the eradication mode. We want to make sure the insect doesn’t get established in the San Joaquin Valley.”
Douhan said the Valley is on high alert to find ACP in traps. “
If researchers discover a cluster of finds in any particular area, we manage some spray programs and try to get all the growers to do a coordinated effort in order to try to combat it,” he said.
In addition, the SAVE OUR CITRUS app is a free USDA iPhone app to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Report your symptoms, upload a photo, and citrus experts will respond.
So far, the practices have been working well.
“I think most of the growers are very well informed,” Douhan said, “and are taking this very seriously because it is this their livelihood.”
Citrus Research Board Explains Cost Impacts on Growers
News Release From California Citrus Mutual
New regulations are expected to cost California citrus growers an average of $701 per acre per year, or $203 million annually statewide, according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).
“Compliance with environmental regulations not associated with groundwater sustainability is estimated to increase costs by $17.7 million, or $67 per acre of citrus,” predicts Bruce A. Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside who authored the study. “New labor requirements will increase costs by $112 million, or $357 per acre, once they are all phased in.”
“Babcock has presented a well-researched economic report that shows how new regulations will increasingly impact California’s citrus industry,” said CRB President Gary Schulz.
The report, Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, also predicts that controlling the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) “will increase costs by $65 million, or $248 per acre per year, if controls are extended to all citrus-growing regions.” Compliance training costs are estimated to increase costs by another $29 per acre, or $7.5 million for the state citrus industry.
“As I read and reread Dr. Babcock’s report, two things kept jumping off the page: one, ‘Cost increases borne by California’s citrus but not by … other citrus growing regions decrease the future competitiveness of California’s citrus industry’; and two, ‘… future compliance with these regulations is estimated to increase costs by $203 million, or $701 per acre per year,'” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen. “When the cost of citrus at store level gets too expensive, consumers look for lower priced fruit. This UCR report paints a clear path for policy makers if their goal is to drive the citrus industry out of California and onto off-shore production areas.”
The 20-page report includes a breakdown of increases in labor costs, including California’s minimum hourly wage increases, which are scheduled to rise in annual increments to $15 over the next four years. The report also covers the projected cost increases of recent state legislation dealing with paid sick leave, payment rates for rest and recovery periods, overtime and workers compensation.
The section on insecticide treatment addresses grower cost of spraying for ACP, even though the severity of the problem currently differs greatly in various areas of the state. If ACP establishes itself in all citrus regions in the state, which the report says is “almost inevitable,” control efforts would amount to $39.5 million per year, according to Babcock. This would be in addition to the state-mandated tarping of fruit that is transported to packinghouses, at a cost of approximately $9 million per year.
According to the report, The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011 and is still being implemented, will not require major changes for growers who are already GFSI-certified (Global Food Safety Initiative compliant).
The impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is hard to predict, according to Babcock. “It will not be possible to calculate the impact of SGMA until each basin’s groundwater sustainability plans have been finalized,” he states. “Without new surface water supplies, it seems inevitable that some farmland that currently relies on groundwater will need to be fallowed to balance withdrawals with recharge rates.”
Babcock, a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. He received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis.
The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower-funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act, as the mechanism enabling the state’s citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. The full report on the Impact of Regulations on Production Costs and Competitiveness of the California Citrus Industry, as well as more information about the Citrus Research Board, may be read at www.citrusresearch.org.
Citrus Research Board Quantifies California Citrus Industry’s Importance
Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh
Despite Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones posting a series of anti-ag comments on Facebook, causing a stir in the local community, agriculture provides a huge economic stimulus to his community. In fact, without agriculture in Tulare, the city would most likely be in economic ruin.
Citrus is one crop that is grown in the county. And the total economic impact of the iconic California citrus industry is $7.117 billion according to a new study commissioned by the Citrus Research Board (CRB).
“In updating our economic analysis, we selected a well-known expert, Bruce Babcock, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside, to conduct the research. His findings quantified the significant impact of citrus on California’s economic well-being,” CRB President Gary Schulz said.
According to Babcock, the California citrus industry added $1.695 billion to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.
“California citrus is a major contributor to the economic value of the state’s agricultural sector and is much larger than just the value of its sales,” he said. “Estimated full-time equivalent California citrus jobs totaled 21,674 in 2016-17, and estimated wages paid by the industry during that same time frame totaled $452 million.”
Babcock added, “The application of management skills and capital equipment to efficiently utilize land and water to produce high-quality citrus also generates upstream and downstream jobs and income that magnify the importance of citrus production beyond its farm value.”
In 2016-17, the most recent marketing year of data compilation, Babcock found that the total direct value of California citrus production was $3.389 billion. This value generated an additional $1.263 billion in economic activity from related businesses that supplied materials and services to the citrus industry. Layered on top was another $2.464 billion in economic activity generated by household spending income that they received from California’s industry, according to Babcock, thus rendering a total economic impact of $7.117 billion.
The study revealed that 79 percent of California’s citrus was packed for the fresh market and 21 percent was processed in 2016-17, which is economically significant because fresh market fruit has a higher value than processed fruit.
Of further note, California produced about 95 percent of all U.S. mandarins in the most recent reporting season.
California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said, “The ‘wow’ factor in this report is something, as it relates to gross revenues and positive impact for the state, people and local communities. This enthusiasm must be tempered by the fact that huanglongbing (HLB) can destroy all this in a matter of a year if the partnerships that exist between the industry and government cannot thwart the spread of this insidious disease. Just this week, coincidentally, Brazil authorities reported a 20% reduction in fruit volume. Reading how that would affect our family farmers, employees and the state is sobering.”
The CRB study also looked at the possible impact of a potential 20 percent reduction in California citrus acreage or yield or a combination of the two that could result from increased costs associated with meeting government regulations, combatting the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and warding off the invasion of HLB, a devastating disease that has decimated citrus production in many other growing regions such as Florida. Babcock calculated that such a reduction could cause a loss of 7,350 jobs and $127 million in associated employment income and could reduce California’s GDP by $501 million in direct, indirect and induced impacts. The CRB currently is devoting most of its resources to battling ACP and HLB to help ensure the sustainability of California citrus.
Babcock is a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and has won numerous awards for his applied policy research. The economist received his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Masters and Bachelors degrees from the University of California, Davis.
The CRB administers the California Citrus Research Program, the grower-funded and grower-directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act as the mechanism enabling the State’s citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research. More information about the Citrus Research Board and the full report on the “Economic Impact of California’s Citrus Industry” may be found at www.citrusresearch.org.
CCM President Issues Statement Regarding Chinese Tariff Announcement
News Release from California Citrus Mutual
While the proposed 15% Chinese tariff increase will affect all fruits, nuts and vegetables shipped to China, California Citrus Mutual (CCM) President Joel Nelsen issued the following statement regarding the tariff increase on California citrus as a retaliatory counter to President Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum:
The decision by the Chinese government to levy exorbitant tariff increases on U.S. produce will surely have a direct impact on California citrus producers. Maintaining access to foreign markets and having the ability to compete in a global market place are critical to the success of the citrus industry.
The retaliatory tariffs imposed by China hinders our ability to be competitive by increasing costs for Chinese consumers, an important market for California citrus. Family farmers in our industry will suffer from the economic fallout unless we can find alternative markets for California’s While our Administration focuses on those business sectors requiring attention, the Chinese Administration has chosen to expand the discussion to include the agricultural industry. In fact, the Chinese indicated last week in a statement that constructive talks could alleviate the real issues, yet insufficient time was given to accomplish that objective. Now Chinese consumers and California citrus producers are innocent parties to a trade debate.
Nelsen, CCM Executive Vice President Casey Creamer, and Board Chairman Curt Holmes have traveled to Washington, D.C. recently for meetings with Congress and the Administration regarding trade and other important issues affecting the California citrus industry.
California Citrus ACP and HLB Update from Gary Schulz
By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster
The Citrus Research Board (CRB) recently held their annual California Citrus Conference in Exeter, bringing together a variety of guest speakers and research presentations. The Conference focused on pressing Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) and Huanglongbing (HLB) issues, along with political action updates and current projects that are important to the citrus industry. Gary Schulz, president of the CRB, said “We have a 21-member board and we’ve been planning this event for the last 12 months. It’s been 4 years since we held the last conference,” noted Schulz.
The CRB is responsible for overseeing the California Citrus Research Program (CCRP), a grower-funded and grower-directed program created in 1968 under the California Marketing Act. The CCRP’s purpose to enable California’s citrus producers to sponsor and support research that furthers the overall industry. Therefore, close to 70 percent of the CRB’s overall budget is allocated to research.
Schulz said the Conference “was a great, great day to have a good update on some of the dollars the Citrus Research Board has been spending on the growers’ behalf on research.” Schulz explained HLB represents the single greatest threat that citrus growers have faced worldwide.
For the past seven years, the USDA and Congress have allocated between $10 and $12 million dollars annually for ACP and HLB research operations. Advocacy groups and other supportive ag organizations have contributed the difference to reach an annual ACP and HLB research budget of close to $90 million dollars a year. We fund a lot of UC Riverside and USDA agricultural research, service researchers, plus research at UC Davis and the University of Arizona,” Schulz noted.
Schulz, who has many years of experience in California agriculture, having served as general manager of the Raisin Administrative Committee and CEO of the California Raisin Marketing Board, stated that CRB has a great working relationship with California Citrus Mutual (CCM). “Joel Nelson and CCM have worked very hard with the packers to assess themselves, put together a private foundation, and work with the university,” Schulz said.
Featured Photo: Adult Asian Citrus Psyllid (Source: The Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program)
California Citrus Mutual on the Fight Against the Asian Citrus Psyllid and HLB
By Laurie Greene, Editor
On Saturday, June 4, 2016, Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today’s farm news director, hosted iHeart Media’s Ag Life Weekendshow on “Power Talk 96.7 FM Fresno and 1400 AM Visalia stations, sitting in for broadcaster Rich Rodriguez. Cavanaugh’s invited guests included Alyssa Houtby, director of public affairs, and Chris Stambach, director of industry relations for the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, to discuss the status of the state’s citrus industry amidst the ACP and HLB Infestation.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), certainly the number one pest for California citrus, can spread a bacterium known as Huanglongbing (HLB) that is fatal to citrus trees. As of 2016, 22 trees in the state have been infected with the fatal disease and had to be destroyed. The entire citrus industry of California has been and continues to be concerned that the ACP could take down the citrus industry, as it has in Florida.
Alyssa Houtby explained that the fight against ACP in California “is going well, we hope. The Florida citrus industry has been completely decimated by HLB; an estimated 90 percent of their acreage is infested with this disease.”
“Here in California,” Houtby continued, “we saw it crop up in residential citrus before we saw it in commercial citrus. All of the HLB finds, to date, have been in the Los Angeles Basin.” Houtby said they are working diligently to keep the psyllid population down to decrease the exposure of trees to HLB.
The California citrus industry spends approximately $15 million annually on an ACP assessment program, which includes extensive public outreach. Part of the research entails trapping the pest, conducting survey work in the regions in question, applying treatments in residential areas, and managing a delimitation survey around the area of Los Angeles where the disease has populated.
“That means that we’re scouting very consistently,” explained Houtby, “looking for other trees with the disease and pulling those trees out as soon as we find them. We are doing everything we can here in California to keep the pest and disease from spreading—now that we have it,” she noted.
“The California industry has always been one to use a proactive approach,” Houtby elaborated. “We saw what happened in Florida, and we realized really early on that we couldn’t stand by and wait for this disease to find us. We had to actively go look for it and find it—before it found commercial citrus—and we’ve done that.” Regarding the 22 trees in the state that have been destroyed thus far, Houtby said, “It could be a lot worse if we weren’t as proactive as we are.”
When locating a positive ACP find in a residential area, Houtby noted, generally speaking, homeowners have mostly been compliant. “There are pockets in this state where folks don’t like government coming in, knocking on their door and asking to spray their trees with pesticides. We understand that. It’s an opt-in/opt-out scenario here. We’re not forcing homeowners in most cases to treat their trees.”
“But that’s a different situation if HLB is present,” she emphasized. “Then we do. We get a warrant, and we go in and treat the surrounding trees. If we’re treating in response to an ACP find, homeowners can opt out, but overwhelmingly, they don’t. They support our program. They understand that citrus is a part of the California heritage, they like their citrus trees, and they want to keep them in their yards. They understand that the alternative tonottreating is that tree will eventually die if it becomes infected. We’ve worked really hard to communicate to the general public about the seriousness of this issue. We’re pleased with the results.” Houtby said.
Chris Stambach discussed the importance of homeowners having a general understanding of the ACP, so if they find something unusual in their citrus tree, they know to call the local ag commissioner.
Stambach detailed ACP and HLB specifications to increase homeowners’ understanding about their beloved citrus trees. “HLB is symptomatic, but it takes a long time for those symptoms to show up in the tree,” said Stambach. “You really have to know what you’re looking for because some fertilizer deficiency issues in the tree will mimic what HLB looks like.”
“Though the ACP is a really tiny little bug, there are some key signs the public can look for,” explained Stambach. “You want to look for that psyllid and the little tubules it excretes on the new flush of growth—pretty much right there at the end of the terminals where all that new growth comes in the springtime and in the fall. That’s key to California, because there are only certain times of the year when that ACP is actively feeding on the citrus tree.”
California has a real benefit over the Sunshine State, where they have to spray 12 times a year to keep the psyllids at bay. “It hasn’t been effective for [Florida],” noted Stambach. “We had a couple of growers out this last winter to our Citrus Showcase. They planted new trees, 4 years old, and although they spray 12 times a year, their orchards are 100% infected with HLB. That’s the devastation that this insidious disease can bring. It’s really difficult to get your hands around it because it takes so long to be able to detect it.”
Another benefit for California citrus, according to Houtby, is, “We have a lot of areas in the state where we don’t have to spray at all because we can use beneficial insects. That’s just the great part about farming in California.”
Houtby and her team often look to Florida for ideas and recommendations on what has worked for them, what hasn’t and what citrus growers here can do to prevent the disease from taking hold of their citrus. Sheclarifiedthat 90 percent of the Florida citrus market is used for juice production; whereas, California is a “fresh-oriented industry, meaning that over 90 percent of our product goes into the fresh market.”
Although California citrus looks for recommendations from Florida, “here in California, there are a lot of things that we can’t afford to do because of the [fresh] market that we’re serving,” said Houtby.” That is what we’re fighting so hard to maintain because we cannot sustain as long as Florida has; we don’t have the luxury of sending a bad-looking piece of fruit into the marketplace like Florida can, because they just juice it. Knowing that, we’re working really hard to never get to the point that Florida has reached.”
As if the dire situation in Florida couldn’t be any worse, they battled with “another deadly bacterial-based citrus disease, citrus canker, brought in from the far reaches of the world,” Stambach said. “That’s a concern we always have with importing citrus. When we import Argentine lemons, for example, we risk our domestic plant health by exposing orchards to a lot of plant diseases they have that we don’t. We want to keep those out of our country,” noted Stambach.
Abandoned citrus trees also pose problems for the industry; they can be sanctuaries for ACP. “If those trees are dead, that’s not a problem. They may look bad, but if they are not living, that’s not a problem. It’s when those trees aren’t cared for, aren’t sprayed in a normal routine, and there is a flush of new growth, the trees provide a sanctuary for the psyllids,” he said.
“And ACP are very good at finding citrus. They’ll target the perimeters of new growth on the very first citrus they find. Boom, they’re right on it,” he noted.
“Those abandoned groves create a real problem, particularly when they’re in close proximity to other commercial acreage or even homeowners,” he said. Neglected neighborhood citrus trees can become ACP sanctuaries. “ACPs will feed on them and move on to another tree, and feed there,” Stambach explained. “All that time, if an ACP is infected with the HLB bacteria, it will spread that disease, with a latency period of 2 to 5 years.”
Stambach and his team are working on a critical program in Southern California to remove abandoned citrus trees. “Sometimes it’s just getting a hold of the landowner and making them aware of the situation,” he said. “Our county ag commissioners are really key in contacting those people. We’ve had growers go in and spray their neighbor’s orchard to help them out. There are a lot of different ways to attack that problem.”
Compared to counties in the San Joaquin Valley, Riverside and Ventura Counties typically have a big-ag urban interface, which means there is a lot of acreage intermixed with home sites—small homes with citrus trees. Stambach said, “It’s not really commercial production, but it’s a significant amount of acreage with a number of trees that don’t get treated.”
“We’ve gotten some support from some of our partners in the chemical industry. Bayer CropScience has stepped up and worked with us to put together a program. We’re really happy. We’re working hard to take [ACP and HLB] out.” Stambach said.
“Fresno has evenfound ACPs in residential areas,”commented Houtby on the Central Valley situation. “ACPs are endemic in Southern California, but we’re still at a point in the Central Valley at which we can control these populations and knock them down really quickly when they arrive here.”
Houtby points to the Central Valley’s vulnerability when citrus plant material is moved over the grapevine or from the Central Coast. “We ask that homeowners, and the citrus industry as well, not move plant material out of Southern California into the Central Valley,” she stated. “The psyllid lives on that plant material and not on the fruit. If you’re going to buy a citrus tree, buy it at a local plant nursery or a local Home Depot or Lowe’s. Don’t buy it in Southern California and drive it to the Central San Joaquin Valley,” she urged.
“Our biggest task for homeowners is that they cooperate when the California Department of Food and Agriculture knocks on the door and wants to look at their trees,” Stambach said. “That is the best way you can help us win this battle against the ACP.”
Homeowners can learn how to protect their citrus trees at:
California’s $2.2 billion fresh citrus industry that supplies 85 percent of the nation’s fresh citrus is currently healthy and vibrant despite the background threat of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), according to Kevin Severns, a citrus grower in Sanger, CA; general manager of the Orange Cove-Sanger Citrus Association, a cooperative citrus packing house in eastern Fresno County; and chairman of California Citrus Mutual.
“We’re quite concerned about it,” Severns said about the ACP—a tiny bug that is a known carrier or vector of “huanglongbing” (HLB), a devastating, incurable disease of citrus trees that has already demolished the citrus industry in Florida. “We’ve been able to keep the bug at bay to this point,” Severins continued, “at least here in the Central Valley, but we’re very concerned about it. There are a lot of issues to be concerned about with this bug.”
California has taken note of the devastation of Florida’s industry, Severns said, and is taking steps to ensure the safety of California’s citrus. “Having gone to Florida with many of our citrus growers,” Severns explained, “I heard Florida growers tell we must control the bug. So we’re trying to keep this bug at bay and not allow [the infestation] to expand. We’ve had varied success in different areas of California, but so far, we’ve been able to keep the bug’s expansion here in the Central Valley to a minimum. We continue to have finds from time to time, but we haven’t yet had an explosion of the population of the ACP.”
Severns said, “We have a very successful partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).” While trapping ACP is critical, he emphasized the importance of enlisting the help of residential folks with citrus in their backyards to get involved in the conversation, to look for this pest, and to join in the fight. “The trap is very limited in its ability to pick up ACP, so it’s very important that we have visual surveys in which growers and homeowners actually go out and look at their trees for the bug.”
Severns said current measures against the spread of the ACP is helping to buy time for researchers to find a cure for HLB. “We realize every place on earth where the ACP has gone, eventually has been followed by HLB,” Severns said, “so we’re trying very hard to buy time and give our researchers and scientists a chance to come up with a solution to this disease—whether it is a resistant type of citrus variety or a cure for the trees.”
Preventing the spread of ACP and HLB, from commercial citrus growers to residential citrus growers, will require that everyone works together. To learn more, go to CaliforniaCitrusThreat.org or contact your local Ag Commissioner.
Did you know, the historical time period establishing the California citrus industry is known as the “other” California Gold Rush? (Source: California Citrus Mutual)