Citrus industry backfills federal funds in Valley pest fight

Fresno BeeOctober 2, 2013 

The federal shutdown isn't stopping California's citrus industry from keeping up its fight against a potentially devastating citrus pest.

The industry's California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee is contributing up to $100,000 to help replace federal funding used to help battle the Asian citrus psyllid in the central San Joaquin Valley.

A quarantine area has been created in several regions of the Valley's citrus belt after the tiny bug was discovered. The most recent finds were near Dinuba, Strathmore and Ducor.

The psyllid is a major threat to the state's $2-billion citrus industry because of its ability to carry a deadly plant disease known as citrus greening, or huanglongbing.

The county, state and federal government are working jointly to prevent the bug from spreading by placing and monitoring insect traps, doing field surveys and chemically treating residential trees that have the insect.

Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said that the money is just a temporary measure to help backfill some of the funding lost from the federal government shutdown.

Nick Hill, chairman of the grower-funded citrus disease prevention program, said it was important for the industry to step up and plug any gaps in the battle against the psyllid.

"This is really just a stop gap measure, but we felt it was important to continue with the funding," Hill said. "This should keep us afloat for at least the next few weeks."

Hill said the committee will ask to be reimbursed, but he is not holding his breath that they will get the money back.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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