In presentations before legislative committees and in his weekly newsletter, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned that “time is not on our side” in the fight against citrus greening. Citrus greening is caused by a bacteria spread by the Asian Citrus Psyllid, an invasive insect that has been destroying Florida’s orange groves at an alarming rate.
Commissioner Putnam has indicated that half of all Florida’s orange groves have been infected, and that without continued research, the disease could threaten this $9 billion industry (and an estimated 76,000 workers). A recent forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts overall orange production in Florida will be down to 103 million boxes this year, from nearly 147 million in 2011-12.
Although the Governor’s proposed budget calls for $8 million in research funding, Commissioner Putnam has requested an $18 million appropriation to combat the disease.