Written by David Castellon
Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to include $2.5 million in his final state budget to help fight the spread of the huanglongbing bacteria among California citrus trees.
“The inclusion of $2.5 million dollars in this year’s budget follows last year’s significant commitment and augments the $15-$18 million put forth by Growers annually,” according to a press release issued by California Citrus Mutual.
The Exeter-based nonprofit trade association, representing about 2,500 citrus growers across the state, is helping lead the charge against huanglongbing – also known as “HLB” – a bacteria capable of killing citrus trees, and the insect that can spread it, the Asian citrus psyllid.
HLB is a devastating disease that has reduced citrus production in Florida — where it is widespread in commercial groves — by 70 percent.
“We have been lucky to date,” Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said of California’s citrus industry, “as we were able to put a program together before the disease and the bug had a chance to gain a foothold in commercial groves. Unfortunately, the disease is spreading in the backyards of Los Angeles, Orange County and locales south.”
More than 200 HLB-infected trees have been found in backyards in those areas, but farmers are concerned the disease may spread to commercial groves down south and here in the Valley.
“Finding the disease before it finds the industry has always been the goal, and this budget allocation once again recognizes the scope of the fight,” Nelsen wrote.
Brown announced his 2018-19 budget proposal last week.