U.S.D.A. to expand support for citrus farmers fighting H.L.B.

by Max Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced that the U.S.D.A. will provide financial assistance to eligible Florida citrus growers with the removal of trees afflicted by Huanglongbing (H.L.B., sometimes known as citrus greening) and for replanting groves with healthy stock.

“U.S.D.A. is investing in research and a variety of strategies to combat citrus greening over the long-term,” Mr. Vilsack said. “In the meantime though, this support will help ensure growers are not wiped out in the short-term. We must ensure that Florida's citrus industry can weather this storm while a more permanent solution to this problem is developed. The key to the citrus industry's survival is getting new trees in the ground, and we're doing everything we can to help with that.”

The support comes through U.S.D.A.’s Tree Assistance Program. Other citrus-growing states could become eligible in the future for support against H.L.B.

The bacteria spread internally through the plant and causes fruit to ripen unevenly, creating a lopsided, visibly smaller and bitter tasting fruit. H.L.B. does not pose a health threat, but has dramatic impact on the fruit crop.

The U.S.D.A. has expanded the Tree Assistance Program because of the debilitating damage that H.L.B. does to the crop. Previously, all citrus tree deaths had to occur in one year to be eligible for support; now, farmers can receive financial support as trees decline/die over a period of six years.

Eligible Florida citrus growers can receive up to 50% of the cost to remove diseased trees and site preparation, 65% of the cost of replanting and labor and 65% of the cost of seedlings.

For more information, producers may review the Tree Assistance Program fact sheet at www.fsa.usda.gov/factsheets or contact their local county Farm Service Agency office at http://go.usa.gov/pYV3.
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