On Aug. 30, the Citrus Canker Liaison Committee met to discuss the progress of the eradication program and efforts to garner the necessary resources for eradication and compensation.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented the Sentinel Grove Survey results through Aug. 23. As of Aug. 23, the report reflected that out of the nearly 21,000 acres (1,367 blocks) surveyed, approximately 0.80 percent was infected. The survey is density driven, which means surveying began in the areas that had the highest density of citrus groves. In addition, the survey blocks are biased toward the varieties that are more vulnerable to citrus canker. It turned up 11 finds, which is encouraging as 99.2 percent of survey groves were not found to have canker.

The survey is broken into four phases, with no block surveys repeated.

• Phase I: Surveying at least two blocks per township-range is 89 percent complete.

• Phase II: Surveying in at least four blocks per township-range is 9 percent complete.

• Phase III: Surveying in at least six blocks per township-range is pending.

• Phase IV: Surveying in at least eight blocks per township-range is pending.

Regarding the overall eradication program, state officials reported that less than 1 percent of all commercial citrus trees have been infected with canker. From 1995 to 2004, 15,000 acres of commercial citrus acreage was destroyed due to canker. In 2005, nearly 54,000 acres have been, or are slated to be, removed. Although we are close to losing nearly 70,000 acres of citrus over a 10-year period, it is important to remember that during the freezes of 1983-1985, the industry lost about 230,000 acres, and we have made a strong recovery since then. With the positive news from the survey findings, I am extremely confident that we have a strong chance to eradicate this disease. 

On the eradication and compensation funding side, we continue to meet with Bush Administration officials to discuss our needs. Although both the eradication and compensation numbers are large, we are exploring multiple funding sources over an extended time. Discussions are positive, and we look forward to ongoing dialogue with Congress.

Again, I know the spread and eradication of this disease is the No. 1 concern for growers today. Please be assured that Florida Citrus Mutual is doing everything possible to obtain funding and see that canker is eradicated from the state. The survey results are extremely encouraging and as one state official involved in the program recently stated, “We have to stay focused on our mission in order to ensure our success.”