With the 2005-06 season beginning, the top issue facing the citrus industry today is the battle against citrus canker. While many challenges lie ahead, we must focus on the successes we have had thus far in order to successfully complete this eradication effort.

State and Federal Support

Undoubtedly, the current success of the Citrus Canker Eradication Program (CCEP) would not be possible without the strong support of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles H. Bronson and his staff at the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Commissioner Bronson has been unwavering in his determination to ensure citrus canker is eradicated from the state. Please be sure and thank him when you have the opportunity. In addition, many of our state legislators have gone to bat for us repeatedly to ensure that the state’s portion of the eradication funding is available. We owe a debt of gratitude to them as well.

Mutual continues to meet with the Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, the Florida Congressional delegation and other Congressional leaders, our Washington, D.C., lobbying team and others who are vital to ensuring the federal dollars for both eradication and compensation are secured. All discussions are very positive; however, it is important to remember that we must remain patient as we work through the funding details for eradication and compensation — this process is never as expeditious as we would like.

Scientific Research

With the number of commercial canker finds reaching a peak this summer, many growers are anxiously awaiting to find out when the frequency of the finds will subside. In mid-July, USDA Plant Pathologist Tim Gottwald addressed growers at a Florida Citrus Mutual- and Syngenta-sponsored meeting in Lake Wales. Several hundred growers attended and were reminded that we are not discovering new finds, but existing canker, moved by last year’s hurricanes, that is just now expressing itself.

Gottwald and other researchers developed models, based upon last year’s hurricanes, to help determine areas where canker may have potentially spread. As of the end of August, USDA officials, working with FDACS and trained grower/industry employees, will complete their Sentinel Surveying in these areas and provide a better idea of where canker is located. The industry must commend these researchers for their diligent work in the area of plant pathology. Their expertise and advice is crucial to the survival of our industry.

Industry Commitment

Thanks to the growers’ support of the stepped up efforts in Washington, D.C., including the tariff preservation effort over the past two seasons, we have many supporters in Washington who are working diligently on our behalf. In fact, we have marshaled our Washington lobbying representatives, and securing funding for canker eradication and compensation is the number one federal issue for the Florida citrus industry.

While Mutual has undoubtedly re-directed our efforts due to canker, growers must also do the same with their production practices. In late June, several self-inspection meetings were held to educate growers and grove workers on how to detect canker in the groves.  More than 1,000 people were trained, which increases the number of eyes in the field tracking down this disease. In addition, decontamination must occur in every grove in the state. As the season begins and activity in the groves increases, growers must ensure that anyone entering or leaving their grove decontaminates.

As we have seen with other industry-wide efforts such as the tariff preservation campaign, if the industry works together in a coordinated and collaborative manner, we can achieve success no matter how large the challenge.

We all realize that we are working in a crisis situation, which will truly impact this industry and the State of Florida for many years to come. We will continue to communicate with the entire industry on very regular basis in order to keep everyone up-to-date on any and all progress in the program. I ask that you pay close attention to information we send you via e-mail, mail or the Triangle so you can stay updated.