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Environment

Bill to Fund Citrus Greening Research Passes Hurdle

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Help might soon be on the way to help fight one of the biggest scourges to ever face Florida's citrus industry.

A House and Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee approved $125 million in citrus research funding over the next five years.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson says a provision included in the bipartisan farm bill will provide $25 million a year for the next five years to fund research into combating and eradicating citrus-greening. The disease is killing crops not only in Florida, but also in California, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina.

“This means people will still have orange juice to drink,” Nelson said in a statement.

The $125 million in the bill comes on top of some $20 million Nelson recently helped secure to combat citrus greening.

The head of the state's largest citrus industry group welcomes the news.

"We are in a crisis right now and we know the key to beating citrus greening disease will be found through intensive and sustained scientific research, funded in large part though this money," said Michael W. Sparks, CEO of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual. "This funding is an investment in the future of one of Florida's signature industries and gets us that much closer to a solution."

Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the full Farm Bill sometime in the next few weeks. In a news release, Sparks said he will be communicating with the Florida delegation over the next few days to urge all members to support the farm bill.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid. It attacks the vascular system of a tree and can kill it within two years. Citrus greening is endemic to Florida and can be found in all 32 commercial citrus producing counties.