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Florida Citrus Growers: Greening Infects 80 Percent Of Trees

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Darren Soto say retaliatory tariffs on American goods are hurting Florida farmers.

The vast majority of Florida's citrus industry is being impacted by a bacterial disease known as citrus greening or Huanglongbing, according the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The survey by university researchers found that 80 percent of the citrus trees currently in operation across Florida are infected with the disease that decreases production, reduces fruit size and quality, and causes higher tree mortality.

"Further proof of greening's widespread destruction of Florida citrus," Agriculture Commission Adam Putnam tweeted Wednesday, with a link to the study.

Growers also reported that operations in central Florida have experienced a 12-percent higher "yield loss" because of the disease than those in southwest Florida, according to the report.

The report comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently forecasting this year's Florida orange harvest will be enough to fill an estimated 76 million, 90-pound boxes -- a pace that would make the season among the worst for the citrus industry in five decades.

"Since (greening) was first found in 2005, orange acreage and yield in Florida have decreased by 26 percent and 42 percent, respectively," a report based on the UF survey found. "Orange production dropped from 242 million to 104.6 million boxes in 2014."

Florida orange growers filled 96.94 million boxes during the 2014-2015 season. Gov. Rick Scott recently backed a group of influential growers who have called for the Bartow-based Department of Citrus to slash operations and reduce the "box" tax that growers pay.

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