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Environment

Feds Earmark $1.5 Million to Fight Citrus Greening

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Federal agriculture officials are spending more than $1.5 million on so-called “bio-control” efforts to combat citrus greening in crops in Florida, California and Texas.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday the money will be spent in the three states in hopes of figuring out how to contain the disease.

Part of the plan is to release a tiny parasitic wasp that eats the eggs of the Asian citrus psyllid, which causes the greening.

The citrus greening bacterium is spread by the psyllid. It 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.

"Citrus greening poses a significant threat to the citrus industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It could also further drive up fruit and juice prices if we don't act," said Secretary Vilsack. "USDA is committed to fighting and beating this destructive disease."

The funds announced today have enabled USDA to sign cooperative agreements with Florida (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services), Texas (Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corporation), and California (Citrus Research Board and California Department of Food and Agriculture) to coordinate the fight against citrus greening. These joint efforts will significantly increase the production of the parasitic wasp known to control populations of Asian citrus psyllid.

Vilsack says Florida, Texas and California have developed biocontrol expansion plans that factor in regional elements in order to quickly bolster biocontrol production and release. This will expand the ability to control the ACP on a larger scale, especially in urban areas where citrus trees grow in yards as well as organic orchards. USDA's efforts surrounding biocontrol date back to 2009.

Previous USDA research funding to fight citrus greening includes commitments of approximately $1.5 million in each of the past three fiscal years. Since 2006, the USDA has cumulatively invested more than $300 million on research efforts and actions associated with citrus health and combating citrus greening.

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