Farm bill contains $125 million for citrus greening research

LAKELAND – The Florida citrus industry got a big boost in the fight against citrus greening disease Monday when a House and Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee approved $125 million in citrus research funding over the next five years.

The research program will be overseen by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, in consultation with industry stakeholders from Florida, California and Texas.

“This is absolutely terrific 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 through this money,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of 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.”

“I can’t thank the members of Florida’s Congressional delegation enough for their hard work on this issue. They have worked tirelessly on this legislation. We took a big step forward today, because of them.”

Sparks singled out Senator Bill Nelson along with Representatives Vern Buchanan, Dennis Ross, Tom Rooney, Steve Southerland, Daniel Webster, Mario Diaz-Balart, Kathy Castor, Patrick Murphy, Ted Yoho, Ander Crenshaw and Bill Posey. Sparks also said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s help on the funding initiative was critical.

Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the full Farm Bill sometime in the next few weeks. 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.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 550,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.