(Dec. 9) California citrus grower-shippers are stocking the fiscal arsenal in the state’s ongoing battle against the Asian citrus psyllid.

In a statewide referendum conducted in late October and early November, grower-shippers voted overwhelmingly to increase the assessment on field boxes, said Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif. Growers lobbied for the increased assessment.

“We were reacting to the leadership of the industry who recognized the importance of investing in solutions to this psyllid problem,” Batkin said. “If they didn’t do so, they ran the risk of the destruction of their industry.”

Seventy percent of the 3,800 eligible voters cast ballots in the referendum, Batkin said. Ninety percent of the ballots approved the incremental increase in the assessment, he said, and those voting for the increase represent nearly 75% of the state’s citrus volume.

The field box assessment was increased from three cents to five cents, retroactive to Nov. 1, Batkin said. A field box is used by workers as they harvest citrus crops and, when full, they are dumped into large plastic bins. There are 16 field boxes per bin, Batkin said. The initiative approved by the grower-shippers permits an increase up to nine cents per field box if more funds are needed, he said.

The additional funds will be used in the industry’s campaign to eradicate the psyllid, which can carry the bacterial disease, huanglongbing, also known as HLB and citrus greening.

“We’re ahead of it; we’re excited about it; and, we have a really good game plan that was verified by the rest of the international community last week during a meeting in Orlando,” Batkin said.

The psyllid was discovered in San Diego County in early September and in Imperial County a month later. There have been no new discoveries for more than a month.

“That’s really good news, and it’s not because they are not looking for them,” Batkin said. “They’ve really stepped up their inspections, so we’re pretty happy the bug is staying put.”