WASHINGTON, May 13, 2014- United States Agriculture Secretary TomÂ Vilsack today announced more than $1.5 million in funding to expandÂ bio-control efforts to fight Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrusÂ greening. This action is the first designation of funds by theÂ Huanglongbing Multi-agency Coordination Group (HLB MAC Group) since itÂ was established by Vilsack in December.
“Citrus greening poses a significant threat to the citrus industry andÂ the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It could also further drive upÂ fruit and juice prices if we don’t act,” said Secretary Tom Vilsack.Â “USDA is committed to fighting and beating this destructive disease.”
The funds announced today have enabled USDA to sign cooperativeÂ agreements with Florida (Florida Department of Agriculture and ConsumersÂ Services), Texas (Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Management Corporation),Â and California (Citrus Research Board and California Department of FoodÂ and Agriculture) to coordinate the fight against citrus greening. TheseÂ joint efforts will significantly increase the production of theÂ parasitic wasp known to control populations of Asian citrus psyllidÂ (ACP), the pest that spreads citrus greening in citrus trees.
Florida, Texas and California have developed biocontrol expansion plansÂ that factor in regional elements in order to quickly bolster biocontrolÂ production and release. This will expand the ability to control the ACPÂ on a larger scale, especially in urban areas where citrus trees grow inÂ yards as well as organic orchards. USDA’s efforts surrounding biocontrolÂ date back to 2009.
Secretary Vilsack created the HLB MAC Group last December to fosterÂ greater coordination among federal and state agencies in responding toÂ citrus greening. The Group includes representatives from USDA’s AnimalÂ and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Agricultural ResearchÂ Service (ARS), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), asÂ well as State departments of agriculture and the citrus industry. TheÂ HLB MAC Group serves to coordinate and prioritize Federal research withÂ industry’s efforts to complement and fill research gaps, reduceÂ unnecessary duplication, speed progress, and more quickly provide\Â practical tools for citrus growers to use.
Previous USDA research funding to fight HLB includes commitments ofÂ approximately $1.5 million in each of the past three fiscal years by ARSÂ in addition to NIFA steadily awarding increased grants from $878,000 inÂ FY 2009 up to $10.4 million in FY 2012. Since 2006, the USDA hasÂ cumulatively invested more than $300 million on research efforts andÂ actions associated with citrus health and combating citrus greening.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced today the appointmentÂ of 3 individuals to serve on the Citrus Disease Subcommittee, aÂ subcommittee of the National Agricultural Research, Extension,Â Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board’s Specialty CropÂ Committee.
In 2011, the Secretary established the Citrus Disease Research andÂ Development Advisory Committee as a permanent committee within theÂ NAREEE Advisory Board to study the scope and effectiveness of research,Â extension, and economics programs affecting the citrus industry as itÂ directly relates to citrus disease particularly citrus greening. TheÂ Agricultural Act of 2014 formally codified the Citrus DiseaseÂ Subcommittee, which is composed of 9 members and operates under theÂ auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research,Â Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area.
Each of the 9 Citrus Disease Subcommittee members must be a producer ofÂ citrus from Florida (5 representatives), California or Arizona (3Â representatives), or Texas (1 representative). Each member serves a 2-3Â year appointment. Terms for members overlap so that approximatelyÂ one-third of the Subcommittee is replaced and/or reappointed each year.
The following members have been appointed to a 3-year term to expire onÂ September 30, 2016:
* David F. Howard, Vice President, Graves Brothers Company in VeroÂ Beach, Florida;
* Matthew McLean, CEO and Founder of Uncle Matt’s Organics inÂ Clermont, Florida; and
* Justin D. Brown, Vice President and General Manager, D Bar JÂ Orchards, Inc. in Orange Grove, California.
The Citrus Disease Subcommittee advises the Secretary of Agriculture onÂ citrus research, extension, and development needs, engages in regularÂ consultation and collaboration with USDA, and provides recommendationsÂ for research and extension activities related to citrus disease.
The new members of the Citrus Disease Subcommittee will start workÂ almost immediately when the subcommittee holds its first meetingÂ beginning at noon on Monday, May 19 and Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at theÂ NIFA Waterfront Center, 800 9th Street, SW, Washington, DC. Members willÂ begin with a brief orientation session and an overview of current USDA
research activities related to citrus greening. The members will thenÂ develop recommendations and vote on the priorities and agenda of theÂ Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension program.
The meeting is open to the public, but those interested in attendingÂ must register by contacting Shirley Morgan-Jordan at
Shirley.Morgan@ars.usda.govÂ or calling (202) 720-3684. A public commentÂ period will be available at the end of each meeting or interestedÂ individuals may provide written comment for the public record if it isÂ postmarked by May 30, 2014.
For more information on the USDA MAC Group, please visit: