(Oct. 31, 1:31 p.m.) The California citrus industry is attempting to put its money where its mouth is in the battle against the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that can carry the bacterial virus, huanglongbing, also known as HLB and citrus greening.

Ballots have gone to the state’s 3,800 citrus grower-shippers to decide on a proposed increase in the field box assessment to generate funds for the battle against the bug.

“We did it because of requests from the industry to aggressively go after the Asian citrus psyllid,” said Ted Batkin, president of the Citrus Research Board, Visalia, Calif.

The mandatory assessment of three cents per field box has not been increased since 1993, Batkin said. The proposed assessment could increase over the years to a maximum of nine cents per field box, he said.

“More than likely we’ll stay around the 4.5-to-5 cent range for several years,” Batkin said, “unless we get into a real dog fight with HLB.”

Workers use field boxes to harvest citrus and, when full, are dumped into large plastic bins. There are 16 field boxes per bin, Batkin said.

The voting deadline is Nov. 10. Counting of the mail-in ballots is scheduled to begin about Nov. 15, Batkin said.

The Citrus Research Board is coordinating the industry’s multi-pronged effort against the psyllid, a task that could require $1.5 million annually, Batkin said. The plan includes a public outreach campaign aimed at helping urban residents spot the pest in their yards and ramped up field efforts to augment the work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“Growers have told us to do whatever must be done to keep this industry alive,” Batkin said. “Our objective is to not have any disruption in the supply flow of fruit from California.”

The psyllids were found in Tijuana, Baja California, in late June, the first time the pest has been discovered on the Pacific Coast. Since then, small infestations have been located across the border in San Diego County and in the California desert.

There is no known cure for HLB or citrus greening. Once infected, a tree must be removed.