Around five years ago, citrus industry leaders said citrus greening disease, spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, could end the U.S. citrus industry.

Rather than treat the threat as hyperbole, private and public groups began a plan to keep the disease under control, and that effort is evident today as many worldwide citrus groves have been devastated, but much less so in the U.S.

That’s not to say it doesn’t remain a concern, but as Nick Hill, chairman of the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee said at the 2012 California Citrus Conference, “we are so far ahead of other places in the world that have this (psyllid) problem.”

California has the country’s largest fresh citrus crop, and it’s done a better job of fighting the disease than Florida or Texas, but it also got to learn from other states’ mistakes.

Funding has been granted federally and in the affected states, but more is needed, and citrus leaders need to keep informing legislators of the need for vigilance and investment.

Just this month, the USDA released new restrictions on the movement of leaves and other plant materials shipped with citrus from areas with the disease to packinghouses outside the quarantined area, updating 2010 protocols.

The USDA also reminded us all what’s at stake when it released the 2012-13 national citrus estimate of 284.3 million cartons, up from last season’s 272.4 million, including 59.5 million cartons of mostly fresh market California navels.

Keep the fight going.

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