Florida TaxWatch Economic Commentary
Squeezing the greening out of Florida citrus
Efforts to Combat Citrus Greening
Millions of public dollars have been allocated for combating Citrus Greening in Florida. In February 2015, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reported receiving $13.4 million in federal funds to find a cure.11 Furthermore, USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the 2014 Farm Bill makes available $23 million from the USDA for research and extension projects for producers battling against Citrus Greening.12
Several scientists in Florida have been working on finding a cure for Greening and Canker. Recently, University of Central Florida (UCF) researchers have been using a federal grant to develop a bactericide called Zinkicide. The drug has been sprayed on citrus trees in St. Lucie County and in UF’s Citrus Research and Education Center, has been tested on Citrus Greening, and has shown promising results in fighting Citrus Canker.13
Penicillin injections have also been showing promising results, as sick trees injected with this treatment were almost back to normal about 19 days after the injections. This treatment is yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), particularly because traces of the drug in the fruit may cause reactions in those allergic to penicillin.14 There have also been other treatments tested, including steam-generated heat therapy and antimicrobial treatment.15
Citrus continues to be a very important component of the Florida economy, as the industry supports thousands of jobs, and is valued at more than $10 billion; however, citrus diseases have been threatening the health of the industry. The fight against citrus diseases has been costly to private sector producers, the state, and the federal government. Thankfully, several funds have been created to aid research, and promising new techniques are being developed in Florida universities to combat the disease. Additionally, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam has requested increased funding from the state and federal governments to help combat these and other citrus diseases.
Florida must work to reverse its citrus production decline in order to prevent being squeezed out as the national leader in citrus production, and a top citrus exporter.
11 Orlando Sentinel. "Family finds Juice to Survive in Battered Florida Citrus Industry." March 2015.
12 The Produce News. "Approximately $23 million available for citrus greening research." April 2015.
13 Orlando Sentinel. "UCF Professor tests Treatment for Citrus Greening." April 2015.
14 News 13. "Could Penicillin save Florida’s $9 billion-per-year citrus industry?" March 2015.
15 Orlando Sentinel. "UCF Professor tests Treatment for Citrus Greening." April 2015.
Economic Commentary written by
Jennifer Linares, MS &Research Analyst
Robert Weissert, Sr. VP for Research & General Counsel
Steven T. Petty, Ph.D., Chief Economist
Chris Barry, Director of Publications
Michelle A. Robinson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Florida TaxWatch
Sen. George LeMieux, Advisory Board Chairman, Center for Competitive Florida
Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO
Florida TaxWatch Research Institute, Inc.