(UPDATED COVERAGE 2:30 p.m.) An additional $20 million in funding to combat citrus greening disease is included in the latest congressional budget deal.
California and Florida lawmakers are touting bipartisan efforts to secure the funding that is included in the broad budget deal supported by leaders in both chambers, according to separate news releases from the legislators.
“This isn’t everything we’ve been pushing for in the farm bill, but $20 million is a good step and will allow us to accelerate the research we've started," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a release.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and David Valadao, R-Calif., also helped secure the funding.
"California citrus is a $2 billion industry and creates over 20,000 jobs," Joel Nelsen, president of the Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said in a release. "Our local Congressmen recognize the importance of this industry to the state of California as well as to the U.S. economy."
A House Agriculture Appropriations Committee member, Rooney has helped lead the effort to secure additional greening research funding, according to a release.
“I appreciate Congressman Rooney’s tireless efforts to raise this issue and help protect our nation’s citrus industry from the growing threat of citrus greening,” Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, said in the release. “Defeating citrus disease is critical not only for the economies of Florida and other citrus-producing states, but also for maintaining an abundant and affordable food supply for our nation.”
The funding should allow the federal government to better work with states, universities and industry to control, mitigate and find a cure for greening, and is key to preserving Florida’s citrus industry and strengthening its economy, Rooney said in the release.
This is in addition to the $11 million Nelson helped secure two years ago to fund research into combating and eradicating the disease, which has infected citrus groves in Florida, California, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.
Nelson continues to push for a Senate farm bill provision that would create a trust fund that would provide up to $30 million a year for the next five years to support the greening fight, according to the release.
On Jan. 23, Valadao and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service deputy director Osama El-Lissy plan to sponsor a joint hearing in Visalia, Calif., to address industry questions about the multi-agency task force the USDA formed in December to coordinate HLB research, according to a release.