USDA puts up citrus greening funds

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Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

USDA puts up citrus greening funds

US$22m in grants has been made available for research to combat citrus greening

USDA puts up citrus greening funds

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the availability of US$22m in grants to help citrus producers fight Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease.

Funding is available through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program (CDRE), which was authorised by the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

"Since 2009, USDA has committed significant resources to manage, research and eradicate the citrus greening disease that threatens citrus production in the United States and other nations," said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. "Thanks to the continued, coordinated efforts between growers, researchers, and state and federal government, we are getting closer every day to ending this threat. The funding announced today will help us continue to preserve thousands of jobs for citrus producers and workers, along with significant revenue from citrus sales."

USDA has invested more than US$380m to address citrus greening between fiscal years 2009 and 2015, including US$43.6m through the SCRI CDRE programme since 2015.

HLB was initially detected in Florida in 2005 and has since affected all of Florida's citrus-producing areas. A total of 15 U.S. states or territories are under full or partial quarantine due to the detected presence of the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector for HLB.

Those states include Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, and the US Virgin Islands.

USDA has employed both short-term and longer-term strategies to combat citrus greening. Secretary Vilsack announced a Multi-Agency Coordination framework in December 2013 to foster cooperation and coordination across federal and state agencies and industry to deliver near-term tools to citrus growers to combat Huanglongbing.

The Huanglongbing MAC Group includes representatives from the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA NIFA, USDA's Agricultural Research Service, Environmental Protection Agency, State Departments of Agriculture from California, Florida, Texas and Arizona, and the citrus industry.

The HLB MAC group is charged with quickly putting practical tools and solutions into the hands of producers, allowing them to remain economically productive while longer term solutions continue to be developed.

The Group invested US$20m into more than 30 projects over the past two years. The funding supports projects by universities, private industry, state and federal partners.

Today, growers are benefiting from the use of thermotherapy, soil acidification, biocontrol and other tools funded through the first round of HLB MAC investment. The HLB MAC Group is now considering the best use of an additional appropriation from 2016 of more than US$5m.

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