(Aug. 8) The see-saw battle between the Florida Department of Agriculture and a group of citizens fighting the validity of the state’s citrus canker eradication program took another turn Aug. 6 when a Broward County circuit court judge ordered the state to stop cutting infected trees in south Florida for the second time in three weeks.

The order came a day after Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull issued search warrants allowing the state to cut trees at 335 residential locations in Boca Raton. Nearly 20 property owners lost their trees before the order to stop cutting reached the crews.

Fleet’s second order came after his decision July 18 to issue a temporary injunction to halt tree cutting. Florida officials appealed the decision a few days later to the 4th District Court of Appeals, which automatically stayed Fleet’s order and opened the door for the state to cut trees again.

The issue is expected to ultimately be decided by the Florida Su-preme Court in the fall.

The residents question the scientific process and the methods employed in the eradication program. State law mandates all trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree be destroyed.

More than 600,000 trees have been cut on residential property, mostly in south Florida. An additional 150,000 are targeted for cutting in an effort to keep canker from spreading further north into the Indian River citrus district.

Although canker is harmless to humans, it causes blemishes on the fruit that makes it unmarketable.

According to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, canker has cost $500 million in damages statewide.