Rooney, Perdue Tour Punta Gorda Citrus Grove
PUNTA GORDA, FL – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17) and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue toured a variety of Alico, Inc’s citrus groves this morning in Punta Gorda, FL. This tour was the first in a series of events today that are designed to provide the Secretary with an in-depth look at how citrus greening disease has devastated Florida’s citrus industry.
“Florida’s citrus growers and producers are at a critical juncture and I am thankful that Secretary Perdue has come down to our state — in the middle of August no less — to see for himself how greening has hurt our citrus industry,” Rooney said. “We are very fortunate to have an ally in the new administration who is taking the time to understand this disease from the perspective of those on the front lines. Seeing an affected grove in person and talking with growers whose livelihoods are threatened by greening is an invaluable way to put the scale of this threat in perspective.”
Citrus greening disease has ravaged citrus groves in Florida for nearly a decade, causing a 60% decline in Florida’s citrus production, an industry which accounts for $9 billion of Florida’s agricultural footprint and employs over 75,000 people. During their tour of the 1,100 acre grove, Congressman Rooney and Secretary Perdue were able to see firsthand how citrus greening has impacted the TRB grove as well as some of the strategies implemented by growers that have yielded some success in mitigating the damage caused by the disease.
Rooney, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, has consistently used his position on the Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations to fight for critical research funding to combat citrus greening disease. Most recently, he introduced the bi-partisan CITRUS Act, which reauthorizes the citrus extension set-aside research funding, authorizes the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) and the Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB-MAC). The CITRUS Act also establishes a new exception for citrus growers to receive expanded eligibility and assistance under the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which provides growers access to programs that incentivize the replanting of healthy trees in heavily-affected and abandoned groves.