The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that starting with the 2006-2007 harvest season, it will impose a statewide quarantine on the shipment of fresh Florida citrus to other citrus-producing states, according to an update from Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual.

“It’s because we no longer believe citrus canker can be eradicated from the state of Florida,” USDA spokesman Jim Rogers told The Packer. “We wanted to be able to protect other citrus-producing states

while still allowing the state of Florida to market citrus.”

The quarantine affects shipments to Alabama, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana and Texas. The citrus-producing territories also included in the Florida quarantine are American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The ban includes fresh oranges, tangerines, grapefruits and tangelos, beginning with the August harvest season. Florida still can export citrus juices, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

Prior to the USDA’s quarantine announcement, The Packer reported that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, had worked toward passing strict regulations that would have allowed noninfected fruit grown outside of a 3,800-foot buffer zone surrounding canker-infected groves to be shipped to citrus producing states.

The Packer reported June 7 that Florida might fight the new rule in court.

“We felt like it was a little unfair to cut off fruit shipments to those states that have been a staple for some of the industry, especially those in the tangerine business,” Charles Bronson, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, told the Miami Herald.

The leading citrus-producing state, Florida sends most of its oranges to the juice market.  It is the leading U.S. fresh grapefruit and fresh tangerine shipper, according to the USDA.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services