With over 70 confirmed cases of Huanglongbing (HLB) in southern California, Gov. Jerry Brown authorized $10 million in general fund spending as part of the state’s annual $183.4 billion budget to help address the fatal citrus disease.
The funding comes after several failed attempts by the California citrus industry in recent years to secure additional state funding to combat the bacterial disease in citrus.
The new money comes on top of an annual assessment of commercial growers that generates as much as $18 million annually to run the state’s Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program (CPDPP). While the industry has been able to secure federal funds in the past several years to boost program dollars to about $25 million, this is the first the State of California has provided direct funding to combat the disease.
To date, money for the CPDPP has been used for public outreach and to release beneficial insects that attack and kill the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), the pest believed to be solely responsible for the spread of HLB. So far all of the grower assessment dollars have been used in urban areas to address ACP populations and find HLB.
The state recently announced that 73 citrus trees in southern California have tested positive for HLB since 2012, when the first-ever case of HLB was discovered in citrus tree with multiple grafts in a yard in Hacienda Heights.
By 2015, the disease was being found in nearby San Gabriel, east of Los Angeles. As of June, 56 trees in San Gabriel tested positive for the disease. Since then, California Department of Food and Agriculture inspectors have either found positive trees or positive psyllids in six additional cities, leading to eight the total cities confirmed with diseased trees or insects.
Of these additional cities, Anaheim appears to be another “hot spot” with 11 diseased trees and eight positive psyllid samples.
In all cases the state has removed and destroyed the diseased trees.
Currently over 400 square miles within southern California is under an HLB quarantine, which restricts the sale of citrus by commercial nurseries. The entire southern California region is also under an ACP quarantine, which restricts the movement of plant and fruit materials.
The ACP was first discovered in California’s San Diego and Imperial counties in 2008. It has since expanded to infestation levels in southern California and can also be found in the commercial citrus producing counties of Ventura, Kern, Tulare and Fresno. Psyllids have been trapped as far north as the Bay Area and a suburb east of Sacramento where a homeowner illegally moved a potted citrus tree from a quarantine zone in southern California, bringing with her psyllids that were later discovered by county officials.
The homeowner was subsequently fined for violating state quarantine rules.
California citrus industry leaders have been trying to prevent a repeat of what continues to drag the Florida citrus industry further into unprofitable territory. At a citrus grower meeting in Exeter in late June, farmers and industry leaders learned that Florida may see another 15 percent decline in fruit production in the upcoming season because of the impacts of HLB.