Report: Citrus greening, canker threaten industry


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida's $10 billion citrus industry is an important sector of the state economy, providing thousands of jobs and capital to agricultural regions, according to findings from an independent Florida TaxWatch report.

As the nation's largest supplier of citrus, the success of this industry is vital to Florida's diversified economy.

Florida produces 59 percent of the total U.S. citrus production, but diseases like citrus greening and citrus canker is threatening production. Citrus greening has been responsible for 3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs in the orange juice production industry alone since 2006. The fresh orange and grapefruit industries are also severely affected by the citrus diseases.

"Florida is known all over the world for our oranges, orange juice and citrus, and it's an integral part of our growing economy that provides needed jobs for Floridians," said Robert Weissert, senior vice president of research for TaxWatch, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research group. "There are research initiatives underway to address potentially destructive citrus diseases, but it is imperative that lawmakers make the necessary investments to protect this important sector of the state's agricultural economy."

Citrus is grown over large parts of Florida, but several counties are most at-risk of a citrus industry loss. Polk, Hendry, Highlands, DeSoto and Hardee counties produce more than 60 percent of the state's citrus yield, and as rural counties, their economies depend on the industry.

The state is working to combat the effects of citrus greening and canker, and recently Department of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam requested additional funds from the state and federal government. Groups like the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received $13.4 million from the federal government to research cures for greening, while the USDA plans to spend $23 million around the country to aide producers battling the disease.

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