After years of political haggling, the California legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have taken steps to protect the state's citrus industry and to start down the path to propping up California's lagging water infrastructure.


Under a new law signed by the governor, the California citrus nursery industry is required to test young trees for harmful diseases before selling the stock to grower-shippers.


"We had some farsighted members who saw what was happening in Florida and became alarmed," said Robert Dolezal, executive vice president of the California Association of Nurseries. "The bill that became law was due to a combined effort of the association and the California Citrus Nursery Society."


The association began its campaign for the bill before Asian citrus psyllids were discovered in Southern California in August 2008. That bill did not clear the Legislature. After the psyllid discovery and recognizing the pest's potential for carrying the bacterial disease, huanglongbing, the association renewed its efforts.


"It was clear to us that to maintain the high quality of production citrus here in California, it was necessary to take steps to guarantee clean stock," Dolezal said.


The bill had the backing of California Citrus Mutual, Exeter.


"We weren't the front person on the bill, but we were right behind the nursery association," said Bob Blakely, director of grower relations.


The cost of the testing will have to be built into the cost of the trees, he said, and subsequently grower-shippers will have to pay higher prices for their new stock.


Water woes


The Legislature also has taken the first steps in what will likely be the long journey of solving California's myriad water supply issues.


The Assembly passed an $11 billion collection of bills Nov. 3 designed to overhaul the water infrastructure while preserving the environment.


The vote came one day after the Senate passed a similar package of bills.


Both packages provide for surface storage, groundwater cleanup and conservation efforts and contain a bond measure that must be approved by voters. The two bodies do not agree on the price tag, however. The Senate's package is $9.9 billion, more than $1 billion lower than the Assembly's plan.


If the Senate and the Assembly reconcile their differences, the governor's office has indicated Schwarzenegger will sign the bills, which would open the door to restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and create a stable water supply for growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and for Southern California municipal water districts.


Not everyone in Sacramento is pleased with the water packages. Both plans have been endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. But other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League and fishing groups, want changes.