California governor mulls citrus funding

09/20/2013 09:33:00 AM
Mike Hornick

One of the action items on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk is Assembly Bill 571, under which California would provide $5 million for the Citrus Health Response Program. The California State Senate passed the bill Sept. 9.

Within a few days, the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported multiple Asian citrus psyllid finds on a backyard orange tree at a Dinuba home. Naturally, citrus greening disease was already well-established as a threat to the orange industry here. AB 571 envisions combating an array of woes with tough-to-pronounce or painful-sounding names that include leprosis, canker and chlorosis.

In California, the Citrus Health Response Program is funded largely by a 9 cents per carton assessment on growers that totals $15 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides $10 million. If approved by Brown, the additional $5 million would fund a biocontrol facility and related releases in Southern California. Asian citrus psyllid finds have been common in that region’s urban landscapes. Some representatives of California Citrus Mutual and other organizations spoke up for AB 571 during a pair of news conferences Sept. 17 aimed more at consumers than the trade. That sort of a public education effort is a way to link the worlds of residential citrus — the psyllids’ chief playground — and commercial citrus. Does a backyard orange tree — or two — constitute agriculture? Maybe that’s overstating things. But if so, it’s fair to say that the bigger producers have worries about the smaller producers. And for good reason.

As I write this I can see a backyard lemon tree through the window. It’s the ultimate in locally grown. I’m reminded that the only tree in the whole state confirmed for citrus greening was a lemon-pummelo hybrid in Hacienda Heights. Take comparably long odds, throw in a series of unfortunate events, and this Salinas lemon tree could bring doom to commercial groves elsewhere in the state. Let’s aim for a happier outcome. mhornick@thepacker.com What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.



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