USDA ANNOUNCES $100 MILLION IN CITRUS CANKER COMPENSATION IN FLORIDA
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2006-Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced an additional $100 million in funding to further carry out a commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to compensate commercial citrus growers in Florida for eligible losses resulting from the citrus canker eradication program.
"USDA is working to compensate Florida producers for losses resulting from the citrus canker eradication program before it was revised," said Johanns. "The hurricanes have forced a new approach and we are working closely with Florida agriculture officials and the industry to develop a citrus health program that can sustain the state's citrus industry while ensuring safe, high quality fruit continues to be produced."
The 2004 and 2005 hurricanes spread citrus canker so extensively that it was determined on Jan. 10, 2006 that the established eradication program was no longer a scientifically feasible option to address citrus canker. The established program was modified to stop the practice of destroying trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree and to eliminate the compensation provision. Owners of trees destroyed under the program before January 10, 2006 remain eligible for compensation.
The USDA has been working closely the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in collaboration with scientists and industry representatives from across the nation to develop a new science-based Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) that will enable the commercial citrus industry to produce healthy fruit in the presence of citrus canker. A draft of the plan is expected to be available in March.
The goal of the CHRP is to develop an area-wide regulatory compliance program that establishes minimum standards to safeguard citrus production and nursery stock from citrus canker, citrus greening and other citrus diseases of regulatory significance. Once drafted, the CHRP will identify best practices that the industry must follow to ensure that growers can produce, harvest, process and ship healthy citrus. Key to this compliance-based program will be early pest detection. Continued surveillance will ensure that new outbreaks are quickly identified so that they can be suppressed before they have a chance to spread. These efforts will help to ensure that international markets are maintained for the U.S. citrus industry.
With today's announcement, USDA has provided a total of approximately $436 million for compensation to producers affected by this disease. Citrus canker is a rapidly spreading, highly contagious bacterial disease that causes fruit to drop prematurely.