There’s no more important issue to the U.S. citrus industry than fighting greening disease, also called huanglongbing.

It was a good step when the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a unified emergency response plan for HLB, which coordinates efforts among state and federal groups. 

In mid-December, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he was responding to the citrus industry’s request for more urgency. USDA will provide $1 million in research funding for greening, which is added to the $9 million in grants from the 2008 farm bill.

This plan is called the Multi-Agency Coordination Group for HLB. It aims to be the contact for all state and federal entities that work on citrus issues, and it aims to coordinate federal research with industry efforts, reducing duplication.

This is a stark contrast to California Gov. Jerry Brown, who in October vetoed a bill that would have appropriated $5 million from the state general fund to fight HLB, which sent the message “drop dead” to growers in the largest citrus-producing state.

The citrus industry knows it can’t wait on government help, which is why it’s assessing itself in order to fight the disease.

But government is nonetheless an important partner.

The next big step will be passage of the farm bill, and in that, carving out funds to continue to fight HLB.

USDA needs to continue to be a leader in spreading the urgency message.

The domestic citrus industry depends on it.

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