Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a new, unified emergency response framework to address Huanglongbing (HLB), a serious citrus disease affecting several U.S. states, including California.
The framework will allow the USDA and its partners to coordinate resources, share information and develop strategies to better combat HLB. There is currently no cure for HLB, and efforts to control the disease have been slow as infected citrus plants are often difficult to maintain and study.
“The Central Coast relies on agriculture and the citrus industry to drive our local economy,” Capps said. “This disease is negatively affecting local producers, and I am happy to see the USDA take steps to try to shut this disease down.”
“I am delighted to see USDA responding to the needs of the citrus industry in California by taking the lead with developing a multi-agency approach to combating this devastating disease,” Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Fisher said. “The funding that USDA will be providing demonstrates the agency’s commitment to finding effective solutions as expeditiously as possible.”
"The HLB MAC will provide greater coordination and ultimately protection of our iconic citrus industry," Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales said.
Both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are already quarantined. In Ventura County, the citrus industry generates roughly $215 million annually, with more than 20,000 acres of lemons, oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. Ventura County is the No. 1 lemon-producing county in the nation.
Santa Barbara has about 1,400 acres of lemons. The value of the crop in 2012 was more than $10 million.
The bacterial disease poses no danger to humans or animals, but it has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad. Portions of California are under quarantine for the disease.
— Chris Meagher is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.