USDA ANNOUNCES $200 MILLION IN DISASTER RELIEF FUNDING FOR CITRUS CANKER COMPENSATION IN FLORIDA
LUBBOCK, Texas, Oct. 5, 2005--Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced $200 million in disaster relief funding to compensate commercial citrus growers in Florida for losses suffered as a result of citrus canker.
"Many Florida commercial growers have seen their livelihoods destroyed by citrus canker," Johanns said. "This funding will help them recover those losses and further our eradication activities, which are critical to preserving Florida's $9.1 billion citrus industry and preventing the spread of the disease."
The number of Florida growers impacted by citrus canker has increased significantly following a series of hurricanes beginning in 2004 that spread the wind-borne disease to new areas. In the spring and summer of this year, 269 new citrus canker infections were detected in commercial groves affecting 62,000 acres of citrus. On Sept. 30, USDA announced $53.75 million in emergency funding to accelerate eradication activities and prevent commercial canker infections caused by recent hurricanes from spreading.
Outbreaks in commercial groves require the immediate removal of all positive and exposed trees in order to stop the spread of the disease. Since October 1995, when citrus canker was first detected in Miami, USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have been working to eradicate the disease. In total, USDA has provided more than $378.6 million in funding to support eradication activities and with this announcement, about $336 million for compensation.
Citrus canker is a rapidly spreading, highly contagious bacterial disease that causes fruit to drop prematurely. In addition, citrus canker lesions make infected fruit unmarketable. Because there is no chemical cure or treatment for citrus canker in Florida, the only way to eradicate the disease is to destroy all infected or exposed trees. The citrus industry contributes to the eradication effort by participating in self-survey programs that have led to numerous new detections.
Despite the damaging effects of recent hurricanes, the joint federal-state eradication program has continued to protect Florida's citrus market. No interstate markets have closed to shipments of Florida citrus from nonquarantine areas and no foreign markets have closed due to the presence of citrus canker. The program also remains highly successful in detecting infestations early and rapidly removing infected and exposed trees before the disease can spread.