US Citrus Industry Working Together on ACP, HLB Funding

Critical ACP, HLB Funding Comes Only After Industry Helps Itself

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

State Citrus Mutuals in California, Texas and Florida are diligently working in Washington, D.C., for $10 to 12 million in annual funding to help their citrus regions fight Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) infestation and Huanglongbing (HLB), the disease that ACPs vector.

The three Citrus Mutuals have collaborated well for the half dozen years of the American ACP invasion. Initially, the Florida Citrus Mutual team developed the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP),” said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, acp and hlb funding
Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual

“They initiated it at a very minor funding level. However we sat down with them and said, ‘Look, this is an opportunity to ensure that all of the U.S. citrus industry can work together to protect itself from Huanglongbing.’ They were gracious enough to say okay. We exerted our leadership because we had people in positions in Washington who could be very beneficial to this,” Nelsen said.

“Initially it was a Florida/California effort. We said we need to double the size of the CHRP program and allocate more dollars to California, some to Texas, and some to Arizona. Now everybody is participating to the extent that they can. Today, it is still a Florida/California effort and a Florida/California-run program in partnership with USDA.

Nelsen said those involved are working hard to protect the citrus industry, and not just chasing a problem. Funding has been helpful to California. Only after the industry does all it can, will the state expect the federal government to help.

“It’s true for all three states’ industries,” Nelsen said. Unfortunately, Texas made a mistake. They did not have a policy in place to immediately remove an HLB-infected tree. As a result, they have an HLB infection spreading.”

“Texas is being adversely impacted on the dollar level. We don’t want to see that industry die, so there is a partnership that does exist on behalf of our colleagues,” Nelsen said. “We can’t afford to make mistakes like that.”

“In order to justify the continued progress of funding on an annual basis we are going to have to continue looking ahead, taking the steps necessary and doing what is needed to protect the citrus industry from the spread of Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing.”

“We definitely have to show progress. We can’t ask homeowners to spray their trees if in fact we are not spraying ours. We can’t ask the federal government to continue helping us looking for ACPs if we are not willing to tarp our trucks to stop the spread of it. If we’re not willing to do a coordinated spray program then why should the government help us in finding HLB? If we are allowing snake oil merchants to conduct research projects, why should the federal government fund those?

Citrus Showcase Had Strong Showing

Citrus Showcase News

Area-Wide ACP Spraying To Start Soon

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The 2014 California Citrus Showcase in Visalia, hosted by the Exeter based California Citrus Mutual, brought a record crowd.

“It was the largest event we have had in our 15 years,” said Joel Nelson, President of the California Citrus Mutual, the organization that hosts the annual event. “We had about 100 exhibitors and about 650 people for lunch, and roughly 1,000 growers who meandered though the entire show throughout the course of the day,”  Nelson said.

There were also six workshops that focused on the Asian Citrus Psyllid, the vector of the fatal HLB disease, water quality and even GMO research to help find HLB resistant citrus stock.

“What we wanted to do  was  give our growers a bit of optimism,” said Nelson. “Our citrus industry has been hit with so many challenges, not withstanding the ACP/HLB issue, the  disease that is ravaging Florida; the freeze in December and now the drought conditions.”

“We wanted the industry to be aware that there are opportunities to fix these problems that are facing our industry, and I think that the growers left here much more positive than when they came in,” said Nelson.

Joel Nelson and Felicia Marcus
Joel Nelson, President of California Citrus Mutual, with Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board

Some of the highlights of the half-day event included:

The keynote speaker for the inaugural Citrus Showcase Breakfast was Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “This is a scary and uncertain drought, and it is going to be painful,” Marcus said.

“There is no question that we would not be where we are today if we had more storage,” Marcus said. “We are concerned with climate change when we could be facing the regular loss of half of our storage…snow in the mountains.”

She also said that nitrates in the ground water are a legacy issue.

Another big topic centered on what can be done to suppress the ACP, which will help prevent HLB infected trees.

The San Joaquin Valley Citrus Industry has been discussing area-wide treatment of orchards, on top of the mandated treatments when a psyllid is found.

Kevin Severens
Kevin Severns

“As it stands right now, there would be logical areas where geographically it would make sense to have that as a treatment zone,” said Kevin Severns, a grower and  the new Chairman of California Citrus Mutual.

“There will be area captains in each of the zones, such as a grower or other person well-known in the area. They would work with an area-wide coordinator, and the state-wide coordinator will be responsible for coordinating treatment,” Severns said.

The spray timing would be when new growth flushes occur on citrus trees, a time when the ACP is attracted too.

Attendees also heard from Mike Sparks, President of the Florida Citrus Mutual, who painted a grim picture of what has happened to the Florida citrus industry and described its uncertain future.

“The losses due to HLB over the last seven years have been more than $70 million, said Sparks. “Before HLB disease hit us, the Florida Citrus industry was at 815,000 acres. Today the acreage is at 525,000.  And we are losing orange juice processing plant infrastructure due to the low volume, pegged at only  115 million boxes, down from 133 million boxes last season.”

“Every orchard in the state is infected and growers are doing every thing they can to reduce ACP numbers and remove HLB-infected trees,” said Sparks.

Mike Sparks President Florida Citrus Mutual
Mike Sparks

There is particular concern for orchards that have been abandoned.

“The cost of production in order to fight ACP with sprays continues to go up, while production goes down. We know this is not sustainable,” said Sparks.

“Over the years, Florida citrus growers have had to deal with freezes, citrus canker, and even powerful hurricanes that have wiped out orchards. At least those orchards could be replanted and production would resume. HLB, is a far different threat. It has put growers to their knees,” Sparks said.