Make us your home page
Instagram

USDA joins fight against citrus greening

ST. PETERSBURG — The federal government is getting involved in the fight against citrus greening disease, in hopes of saving Florida's — and possibly the entire nation's — citrus crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that it's creating an "emergency response framework" to battle citrus greening. It will gather various groups, agencies and experts to coordinate and focus federal research on fighting the disease.

"We really need to be coordinating more effectively within the USDA and more importantly, with the citrus industry and state and local officials," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, adding that since he came into office in 2009, the agency has spent nearly $250 million on researching and tracking the disease.

The citrus greening bacteria, which is spread by an insect, causes trees to produce green, disfigured and bitter fruits by altering nutrient flow to the tree, eventually killing it. It threatens Florida's $9 billion citrus industry. Growers and scientists suspect that many of Florida's 69 million citrus trees are infected, with some estimates as high as 75 percent. This year's orange crop is expected to be the smallest in 24 years, largely due to greening.

"If we don't find a cure soon, we won't be growing oranges in Florida much longer," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said.

The new USDA group will help coordinate and prioritize federal research with the industry's efforts to combat the disease.

The USDA will also provide $1 million to support research projects and will launch a new section on its website about greening that will serve as an information clearinghouse.

It's especially important in Florida, where the state's famous orange crop is a big part of the economy, culture and history.

"We're treating this almost like a hurricane response," said Kevin Shea, the administrator for the USDA's animal and plant health inspection service.

Florida's orange crop had $1.5 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.3 billion the previous year. Citrus growers gave Florida 66 percent of the total U.S. market share. About 95 percent of the state's orange crop is used for juice. But total citrus acreage is down 2 percent from the previous survey and the lowest since 1966.

USDA joins fight against citrus greening 12/12/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 7:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. USAA expansion at Crosstown Center may bring Tampa 1,000 more jobs

    Corporate

    BRANDON — USAA will bring as many as 1,000 more jobs to Hillsborough County in early 2019 with the expansion of its existing operations in Brandon.

    Stuart Parker, president and chief executive officer of USAA, speaks at the company's new Crosstown Center location in Brandon during a visit following its 2015 opening. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times, 2016]
  2. FHP bids for pay raise a week after disastrous publicity

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — This is real bad timing.

    FHP license plate.
  3. Rhetoric over: Three-nation effort to revise NAFTA begin

    National

    WASHINGTON — Of all the trade deals he lambasted on the campaign trail as threats to American workers, President Donald Trump reserved particular scorn for one: The North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Claudio Montes checks a shipping manifest for U.S. manufactured parts heading to assembly plants in Mexico at Freight Dispatch Service Agency LTD in Pharr, Texas, in June. The freight service ships parts between the U.S. and Mexico that pass through the border freely due to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Of all the trade deals he lambasted on the campaign trail as threats to American workers, President Donald Trump reserved particular scorn for one: NAFTA. [Nathan Lambrecht | The Monitor via AP]
  4. Rick Scott finds out today if he has backing on Venezuela

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Now Florida's Cabinet gets to weigh in on Venezuela.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott interacts with people as he holds a Venezuelan Freedom Rally at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10 in Miam. Governor Scott called on the Venezuelan government to free Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner from house arrest, as well as those that have been wrongly imprisoned by Nicolas Maduro's government.  [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  5. Publix continues to invest in online and app delivery through in-house promotion

    Retail

    Publix Supermarkets is investing more heavily in its online and app development by naming a new vice president to head this growing department.

    Publix Supermarkets is investing more heavily in its online and app development by naming a new vice president to head this growing department. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   TIMES
 file photo]