Growers agree to continue self-assessment program to protect citrus
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 07, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
On the heels of the release of the 2012 Ventura County Farm Report showing lemons as the second most valuable crop, growers will continue to pay for a program to protect their crops from citrus pests, especially the Asian citrus psyllid that spreads a disease that threatens the states citrus industry.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced Monday that it has extended the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program for an additional four years. According to a CDFA spokesman, the extension came after several public hearings and a comment period that indicated overwhelming support of stakeholders for continuing the program.
The program was created by legislation in 2009, establishing a mechanism for citrus producers to assess themselves to provide support for ongoing efforts to protect against citrus threats such as the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). The psyllid is a pest that spreads the bacteria causing huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, a fatal disease of citrus trees for which there is no cure.
The disease has decimated the Florida citrus crop and is a threat to California citrus, but growers were proactive in the fight against ACP early on implementing strict measures including an extensive inspection program. The yellow traps became familiar throughout Ventura County where many residents have backyard citrus trees, the most vulnerable ACP breeding ground due to the lack of regular inspection and knowledge of citrus disease pests and symptoms.
Although the pest has been detected in Ventura County, an aggressive program of public education and eradication has so far kept HLB from being detected. According to the CDFA, producer assessments this year are expected to generate $15 million for the program.
We are grateful to the citrus industry for its partnership in this program, said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. We believe that working together gives us the best chance to protect commercial and residential citrus trees throughout California.
The legislation authorizing the citrus program, AB 281 (De Leon), required the re-evaluation of the program this year. The legislation also requires the program to be reviewed in 2017 - once again using stakeholder input through a public process to make a determination about its continuation.
Aside from Ventura County, the Asian citrus psyllid has been detected in eight other California counties. Quarantines to help control the spread of the pest cover more than 45,000-square miles. The actual disease, HLB, has been detected just once in California - found last year on a single residential property in Hacienda Heights in Los Angeles County.
Lemons, the king of crops for decades until overtaken by strawberries more than a decade ago, was the second most valuable crop in Ventura County last year, with sales of about $201 million.