California Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have appropriated $5 million from the state general fund to fight citrus diseases and the pests that spread them.
By doing so, Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter, Calif.-based California Citrus Mutual, said the governor is sending a clear message that he doesn’t support the state’s agriculture.
“He sent the same message 30 years ago with his unwillingness to eradicate the medfly and now California’s $2 billion iconic citrus industry has been given the same message — that we are not important,” Nelsen said in a news release.
Both the state House and Senate passed Assembly Bill 571, which would have transferred the funds to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Citrus Disease Management Account.
The account also is a repository for federal research funds and grower assessments levied on each box of citrus.
Those funds are then available to fight diseases, such as citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, and Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that spreads it.
Among the projects the AB 571 funds would have been put toward was biological control of Asian citrus psyllids in residential areas of the Los Angeles basin.
The legislation, introduced by Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was supported by several agricultural groups, including Western Growers, Citrus Mutual and the California Farm Bureau Federation.
“While I’m acutely aware of the devastating effects of the Asian citrus psyllid and its vector huanglongbing, this program has mostly been funded by the citrus industry and the federal government,” Brown explained in a memo to Assembly members. “If the current support is inadequate, let’s review our options during the budget process.”