APNewsBreak: Federal funds for citrus greening

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm •  Published: June 12, 2014
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Federal agriculture officials said Thursday that they are allocating millions of dollars toward research to solve problems caused by the devastating citrus greening bacteria that threatens Florida's $9 billion citrus industry.

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Associated Press in a statement that $25 million in funding comes from the 2014 Farm Bill. Another $6.5 million will be sent to projects through a group formed to combat greening.

Florida's citrus growers have been the hardest-hit in the U.S. — experts say virtually all of the state's groves are infected — and researchers are working furiously to come up with a vaccine or cure. Growers warn that if a solution isn't found, Florida's iconic crop could be lost.

"USDA is committed to the fight against citrus greening, including making major research investments to counter this destructive disease," Vilsack said in the statement. "The citrus industry and the thousands of jobs it supports are depending on groundbreaking research to neutralize this threat."

Vilsack said the 2014 Farm Bill provides $25 million per year for a total of $125 million of the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding toward citrus health research over the next five years.

Priority will be given to projects that span several states.

While key citrus-growing regions like California and Texas haven't been as affected by greening, growers, researchers and experts are also working on a cure in an attempt to stave off the devastating disease.