By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
California’s fresh-market citrus producers are working hard to prevent being affected by a disease called Huanglongbing, (HLB) or citrus greening disease. The disease, for which there is no known cure, is spread by an invasive pest known as the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), an aphid-sized insect that first appeared in our state in 2008.
Since our region is a high producer of citrus, this is a concern for our growers and our local economy. Disease symptoms include asymmetrical yellow mottling on leaves, hard fruit that is bitter and doesn’t ripen, along with excessive fruit drop. The disease is devastating. In just 10 years Florida has lost approximately 162,000 citrus acres. It is estimated that 90% of Florida citrus acres are infected. Mexico is heavily impacted, and the disease is quickly spreading in Texas. Unfortunately, with the ACP insect present in 24 California Counties, our $3.3 billion citrus industry could easily suffer the same fate.
HLB has now been found in over 500 residential citrus trees in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties, placing the nearby citrus groves and nurseries of Riverside and San Diego Counties at serious risk.
Given the importance of the citrus industry to our state and region, I and several Assembly colleagues urgently requested an additional appropriation of $10 million to combat the psyllid and the spread of HLB. I’m pleased to report that the request was granted and the additional funding was included in the budget that was signed into law on June 27.
Thanks to foresight and funding from growers and state and federal governments, research will continue to find a cure and to breed new citrus varieties that will be able to resist this terrible threat to ornamental citrus trees and to California’s vital citrus industry.
Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.