U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) applauded the announcement made today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the creation of a new, unified emergency response framework to address citrus greening. This announcement follows a recent agriculture roundtable Congressman Murphy hosted at the USDA Research Facility in Fort Pierce, Florida with Max Holtzman, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the USDA, to discuss the pressing issue of citrus greening and its impact on the local industry and economy.
This new framework will allow USDA and its many partners to better coordinate citrus greening resources, share information, and develop operational strategies to maximize effectiveness. The USDA will be providing $1 million to jump start this citrus response framework.
"Citrus greening is a serious problem that is threatening our local citrus industry, causing irreparable harm and lost revenue to local farmers. One of the major takeaways from our recent roundtable discussion on citrus greening was the need for Washington to help fight this disease that is spreading throughout Florida and across the country," said Rep. Murphy. "I applaud today's announcement and the USDA's commitment to this pressing issue, and remain committed to working with them on efforts to help alleviate the harm caused by this disease."
Congressman Murphy has been a strong advocate of the local citrus industry and the fight to address Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. Early in the year, he formed the bipartisan Citrus Caucus along with Florida Representatives Vern Buchanan, Tom Rooney, and California Representative Gloria Negrete McLeod. Murphy also successfully fought to include language in the agriculture funding bill to provide adequate funding for the USDA's citrus greening research efforts.
"USDA listened to the citrus industry's request for more urgency and greater coordination on the response to HLB and is implementing an emergency response structure," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To jump start this initiative and affirm our commitment to industry, USDA is also providing $1 million to be used in support of research projects that can bring practical and short-term solutions to the growers in their efforts to combat this disease. Through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the Farm Bill, USDA has provided $9 million in research to blocking the ability of insects to spread HLB to healthy trees. We need Congress to quickly pass a new Farm, Food, and Jobs Bill that continues to support this kind of research to protect a crop worth more than $3 billion in the last harvest."
The new framework will bring together USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), along with state departments of agriculture and the citrus industry into a Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group for HLB, also known as citrus greening. It will provide industry with a single contact for all the federal and state entities that work on citrus issues and better enable the collective to collaborate on policy decisions, establish priorities, allocate critical resources, and collect, analyze, and disseminate information. The HLB MAC Group will also help coordinate Federal research with industry's efforts to complement and fill research gaps, reduce unnecessary duplication, speed progress and more quickly provide practical tools for citrus growers to use.
HLB, also known as citrus greening, is named for the green, misshapen, and bitter-tasting fruit it causes. While this bacterial disease poses no danger to humans or animals, it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad. In the United States, the entire States of Florida and Georgia are under quarantine for HLB, and portions of California, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas are also under quarantine for the disease. The U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are under HLB quarantines as well. You can find more information about HLB and the HLB MAC Group on USDA's Multi-Agency Response to Devastating Citrus Disease website.