The U.S. Department of Agriculture has amended its citrus canker regulations to eliminate the pre-harvest grove inspection for all Florida citrus moving interstate.

Instead, the amended regulations require samples of each lot of citrus at the packinghouse be inspected to ensure the fruit is disease-free. This rule will be published in the Nov. 19 Federal Register.

"This regulatory change will enable Florida growers to maintain, and possibly increase, the amount of fresh citrus shipped to eligible states while providing the same level of protection against the spread of citrus canker" says Bruce Knight, under secretary for USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area. "To ensure Florida citrus does not ship to citrus-producing states and territories, APHIS is enhancing its enforcement efforts by conducting market surveillance and monitoring activities throughout Fiscal Year 2008"

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service based its decision on the findings of a pest risk analysis as well as a risk management analysis. The analysis concluded that the risk associated with the interstate movement from quarantined areas of citrus fruit that is free of citrus canker lesions is insignificant.

The analysis also concluded that a mandatory packinghouse inspection of commercially packed fruit provides an effective safeguard to prevent the spread of citrus canker from quarantined areas.

Under the final rule, Florida citrus destined for noncitrus-producing states must be treated, inspected at an approved packinghouse, found free of visible citrus canker symptoms and properly packaged.

APHIS will continue to prohibit Florida citrus from being shipped to citrus-producing states, including California, Texas and Arizona, and U.S. territories. Fruit shipped within Florida does not require sampling and inspection as required in the final rule.

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