Monday, October 1, 2012

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces $9 million for research on stopping and preventing transmission of citrus greening

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 4:43 PM

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According to a study from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences released earlier this year, since 2006, the bacterial disease known as citrus greening has reduced orange juice production, costing Florida’s economy an estimated $3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs.

Greening causes citrus trees to prematurely drop fruit and eventually kills the trees. The disease is caused by a bacterium, and is transmitted by an invasive insect — the Asian citrus psyllid.

This afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that $9 million would be made available to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation in Lake Alfred for research on stopping and preventing the transmission of citrus greening.

"That money will be used for research to look at ways of which we can block insects from going from diseased trees to healthy trees," Vilsack told Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon. "And to institute new biological control systems which we hope will interfere and ultimately interrupt the citrus greening epidemic that has struck the state."

Nelson was ebullient upon hearing the news, saying the greening kills trees in five years.

"If we don't find a cure for this bacteria ... we're not going to have a citrus industry," the Senator said, adding that the disease spread to Texas, California and possibly Arizona. He said it's also a huge plague in Brazil.

Vilsack noted the irony of the 2008 Farm Bill expiring today, as a new fiscal year begins. The irony is that the funding to combat citrus greening comes from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative that was part of the particular piece of legislation. The House of Representatives could not come together to pass a new farm bill, and they won't bring it up in all probability until after the election, and perhaps later than that.

Nelson said the Senate's passage of the farm bill was an example of bipartisanship in Washington.

"For the House not to move, even to go into conference where we could start to work out any differences between the two bills, is unconscionable," he said disgustedly.

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