Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual has expressed appreciation to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both of California, for supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The agency has awarded a $9 million grant to support citrus research that will be funded by the initiative.

The grant should help combat the Asian citrus psyllid, which poses a risk to the state’s citrus crop.

“Here in California, we are in a race against the clock to discover ways to eradicate the Asian citrus psyllid and prevent huanglongbing from destroying the state’s $2 billion fresh citrus industry,” Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said in a news release.

“This is a national issue, and the support from USDA and our state senators is critical for protecting the viability of the entire domestic citrus industry,” he said.

Nelsen also lauded Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for his role in securing research funding.

“It is evident that in time of crisis ... the citrus industries of California, Texas and Florida can work together with government and elected officials to achieve the objective and protect the entire citrus industry from this invasive pest and deadly disease,” Nelsen said.