By Marty McKenna

Almost every Floridian felt the impact of the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. Citrus was especially hard hit — not only by the crop and tree damage, but by the spread of canker during the multiple storms. 

For more than 10 years, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Con-sumer Services, Tallahassee, engaged in an aggressive battle to eradicate citrus canker from the state. During this time, growers lost more than 7 million trees. The eradication program was based on sound science; however, this science did not account for massive back-to-back hurricane seasons. The storms during the past two hurricane seasons caused citrus canker to spread so severely that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., concluded that halting the eradication program would be prudent based on current and expected canker infections.

The USDA is working to develop a Citrus Health Response Plan, with input from scientists, the FDACS, the University of Florida, Gainesville, and the industry. The plan will develop standards for dealing with citrus canker, citrus greening and other pests and diseases.

Florida’s citrus growers greatly appreciate President Bush’s prompt commitment to provide assistance to growers affected by citrus canker. The $100 million in assistance will help growers in their short-term recovery efforts. 

Also, Florida’s citrus growers deeply appreciate the sacrifice many homeowners made in losing their dooryard trees to citrus canker. No one realizes the value of a citrus tree more than a grower whose very livelihood depends on that tree’s viability.

In moving forward, I hope that we all can work to ensure that Florida’s citrus industry remains a viable and productive industry for many years to come.  CVM

Marty McKenna is the member-elected president of Florida Citrus Mutual. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.