Rooney CITRUS Bill Praised by Industry
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan CITRUS Act, a bill developed with extensive grower input that will help expedite the delivery of the economic assistance needed in the short-term to save our domestic citrus industry. Joined by Congressman Valadao (R-CA) and Filemon Vela (D-TX), the CITRUS Act authorizes critical citrus greening disease research programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and improves growers’ access to a program that incentivizes the replanting of healthy trees in ravaged or abandoned groves.
This bill reauthorizes the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program, originally authored by Rooney in the 2014 Farm Bill, which provides $25 million in annual funding until a cure is found. Additionally, the bill authorizes Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) and Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB-MAC). These programs are part of a national effort to protect the domestic citrus industry from invasive citrus pests and diseases through partnerships with state departments of agriculture and industry groups. Additionally, the bill expands the USDA’s Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to incentivize a wider pool of growers to invest in the replacement diseased trees with healthy trees.
The Citrus Investment in Treatment and Research for U.S. Sustainability (CITRUS) Act aims to address the most devastating nationwide threat to the survival of our domestic citrus industry. Huanglongbing, better known as HLB or citrus greening disease, has been ravaging citrus groves across the country for nearly a decade. Florida citrus production has declined over 60% over the past ten years and in Texas, all citrus producing counties are under quarantine. The disease has spread to the west coast where in California and Arizona, growers are increasingly reporting that diseased trees are threatening their groves. Given that this devastating disease has cost the citrus industry thousands of jobs and millions in revenue, U.S. citrus industry leaders have partnered with the House Citrus Caucus in the development of new legislation to address this ongoing threat.
“The citrus industry in Florida has been fighting citrus greening for years and without immediate action Florida orange juice will be a thing of the past. This legislation is critical to not only fund research but to help growers replace trees in order to keep producing oranges. Florida Citrus Mutual is thankful for Congressman Rooney’s leadership on this issue and looks forward to working with him in the coming months to address citrus issues in the Farm Bill” – Mike Sparks, Executive Vice President and CEO, Florida Citrus Mutual
“California Citrus Mutual applauds Congressmen Valadao and Rooney for recognizing the need to protect one of the nation’s most iconic industries - citrus. The challenge affecting the nation’s citrus supply via this insidious disease, Huanglongbing or citrus greening, is unprecedented in the agricultural community. The USDA and previous Congresses have consistently supported this partnership between government and industry. This legislation preserves what will go down as a case study in public/private partnerships until the war is won. Thousands of family farmers, employees and the national affection for U.S. citrus now have a sustained effort to do what no other country and industry has been able to do; win the war against HLB and find a cure that can protect jobs and one of the nation’s healthiest agricultural products.” - Joel Nelsen, President, California Citrus Mutual
“We as growers are just so happy to see this type of legislation and have this kind of support from our lawmakers. In the spirit of true bipartisanship, I love how our legislators can work together for the betterment of the whole citrus industry.” - Dale Murden, Grower and President, Texas Citrus Mutual