Adult Asian citrus psyllids on a mandarine tree

Adult Asian citrus psyllids on a mandarine tree.

Governor's veto sours California citrus industry

With little explanation other than to feign concern over the state budget, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown vetoed a bill that would have boosted funding to combat Huanglongbing and the Asian citrus psyllid.

The bill would have appropriated $5 million a year from the state’s general fund to help in this fight. Not emphasized in this story is the fact that homeowners with citrus trees benefit greatly from a tax growers voted on themselves to combat the psyllid and HLB.

In a shortly-worded veto message, Gov. Brown recognized the citrus industry’s self-assessment and U.S. Department of Agriculture funds used to address the issue. He said if that money: $15 million a year from the California citrus industry and about $10 million a year from the federal government “is inadequate, then let’s review our options during the budget process.”

The outrage in California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen’s voice was obvious.

“His veto of AB 571 is a clear message to our industry that citrus no longer has a home in California,” said Nelsen.

Brown is a strange character to read at times. Nevertheless, he has a track record of not wanting to fund efforts to eradicate dangerous agricultural pests. He  failed miserably when he was governor several decades ago to properly address the Medfly. Now he is on record opposing continued efforts to battle a pest that could eradicate California’s citrus industry and kill every residential citrus tree in the state. Given the psyllid’s track record around the globe, this isn’t hyperbole.

While the governor claims to be concerned about the state’s ailing economy, he had no problem approving California’s health exchange that will force Obama care on families and businesses, arguably bankrupting both. He’s certainly never met a tax he didn’t like.

The bill’s author, Democrat Assemblyman Mike Gatto, certainly seems to understand the important issues facing California agriculture and the state's economy. Gatto is to be commended for his efforts and his apparent understanding of the drivers of California’s economy.

The bill arguably would have helped fund biological control programs in Southern California, where the ACP is widespread and HLB has already been discovered in one residential citrus tree in a Los Angeles suburb. These biological control programs are not a "silver bullet," but they are a positive step in the battle.

It’s easy to see Nelsen’s outrage over the governor’s veto. Let’s be real: it’s not about the money. It’s about a leader who shows little understanding of and much contempt for California agriculture, an industry that employs millions of people, generates billions of dollars for the state’s economy, and is responsible for a significant percentage of tax revenue collected by the state.

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