Georgios Vidalakis director Citrus Clonal Protection Program

Georgios Vidalakis, director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program at the University of California, Riverside, listens to discussions at a citrus meeting in Tulare on proposed rule changes for Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing quarantines. He says new rule proposals need to minimize the spread of HLB in the state without putting citrus production out of business.

California citrus industry wants ACP rule changes

Proposal would deregulate California from federal ACP quarantine Citrus industry wants regional quarantine approach Nursery operators want relaxed rules for host materials sold from HLB quarantine zones  

California could significantly change its Asian citrus psyllid quarantine regulations and, as a result, is asking growers and nursery owners to comment on the proposals.

Two additional scoping meetings will give growers and nursery industry officials an opportunity to hear the proposals, ask questions and submit oral or written comments.

The next meeting takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 24 in the L’Orange Room of the National Orange Show, 689 South E St., San Bernardino.

The last meeting will be June 1 at the CDFA offices, 1220 N. St., Sacramento, on June 1 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Citrus industry officials are encouraged to comment on the proposals through the formal public comment process. Public comment will also be accepted at the meeting in San Bernardino.

At a similar scoping meeting held in Tulare, citrus grower and nursery representatives heard what could become part of the new rules, which in short could be vastly different from what is in place today.

From a regulatory standpoint, Duane Schnabel, pest exclusion branch chief with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), says the state would first ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare a statewide ACP quarantine in California. This would immediately eliminate the county-based quarantines now in place.

“It would basically be a deregulation of California on the national level,” Schnabel said.

That needs to be done so the state could then establish regional quarantine restrictions – larger geographic zones – that would be governed by a set of rules not regulated by the USDA.

All this has been in the works since ACP finds spread north from the Los Angeles Basin and southern California desert region into the San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and the Bay Area. The ACP is known to vector a deadly bacterial disease in citrus trees called Huanglongbing (HLB) or “Citrus Greening Disease.”

The disease has been found in at least 20 residential trees in the San Gabriel Valley near Los Angeles.

Proposals under the new plan vary somewhat for bulk citrus movement than for nursery stock.

Under the bulk citrus proposals, free movement of fruit would be permitted within a quarantine region but regulations would be put in place to prevent moving the ACP from one zone to another.

Movement of fruit outside of established quarantine regions would remain unregulated.

Counties currently not in an ACP quarantine when the new rule takes effect would be labeled “region not under quarantine.”

Regional approach sought

The proposal would establish citrus commodity quarantine zones as follows:

Southern Region: The counties of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.

San Joaquin Valley Region: The counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera and Tulare.

Coastal Region: The counties of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura.

Bay Area Region: The counties of Alameda, Merced, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Stanislaus.

The remainder of the state would not be under quarantine restrictions.

Nursery stock quarantine zones would be limited to three regions instead of the four listed for bulk citrus.

Georgios Vidalakis, director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program and a plant pathologist at University of California, Riverside, expressed concern at the Tulare meeting that the federal deregulation could eliminate federal money for ACP/HLB control and research efforts in California.

Vidalakis wasn’t the only person in the room with more questions than there appeared to be answers, though he does generally favor the regional quarantine approach.

Other concerns ranged from the timing and frequency of recommended treatment procedures to methods for the state to track citrus plant materials through nurseries. Schnabel says the state needs the ability to trace plant materials through the entire process.

Several in the room expressed concerns about how citrus materials sold through nurseries and retail locations would be housed prior to sale.

Proposals would require regulated nursery stock not be moved outside of their region without a special permit and that all regulated nursery stock within a quarantine be treated and bear labels stating they could not be transported outside of the region.

The CDFA received a request from the citrus nursery industry to amend this to allow nursery stock to be displayed and sold outdoors at retail nurseries within the HLB quarantine. This would relax current HLB quarantine requirements that require all host plant materials in that area be housed within a USDA-approved facility.

Under the proposal, nursery stock within an HLB quarantine zone could be housed outdoors for as long as 150 days post-treatment by soil drench and foliar spray before either being retreated or destroyed.

There was vocal opposition in the Tulare meeting to this proposal that included Chris Stambach on behalf of California Citrus Mutual (CCM); and, from Beth Grafton Cardwell, a citrus expert and entomologist with the University of California.

Stambach said CCM does not support outdoor sales of citrus plants within an HLB zone. Grafton-Cardwell said she was concerned about the 150-day treatment protocols as that extends well beyond the efficacy of labeled pesticide treatments for ACP.

Copies of Power Point presentations made at various locations in California on the proposed rule changes can be found online under the “regulation updates” tab. An agenda for the May 24 meeting in San Bernardino is also there.

Written comments to the proposals can be submitted to Keith Okasaki, Pest Exclusion, California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N St., Room 325, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Comments can also be e-mailed to Okasaki at [email protected].

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