Taking the costs of the Mexican fruit fly control program off its books, the Texas Valley Citrus Committee will decrease the assessment rate paid by growers from 9 cents to 2 cents per carton of fresh fruit.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the proposal Dec. 4 and said comments will be accepted until Jan. 3.

The USDA said the committee met on Aug. 8 and unanimously recommended the decreased marketing order assessment because it would not be funding the Mexican fruit fly control program, reducing their budget by more than $595,000.

Ted Prukop, manager of the Texas Valley Citrus Committee, said Dec. 4 that a different group is now handling grower payments toward the Mexican fruit fly control program. The new group is called the Texas Citrus Pest and Disease Corporation, and that group assesses growers based on a per-acre charge of commercial citrus rather than a fee per packed box, he said.

With continuing fruit fly pressure at the Mexican border, the control program rears sterile fruit flies and releases them in commercial groves.

The program is necessary to prevent infestations that could lead to quarantines. A quarantine would prevent Texas citrus marketers from shipping to other citrus states. “California is a big part of our market, so that would hurt,” Prukop said. 
The Mexican fruit fly has not been found recently in Texas citrus groves and no quarantines were in place as of early December, Prukop said.

The USDA proposal said the remaining major expenditures recommended by the Texas Valley Citrus Committee for the 2017-18 year include $79,220 for management, $50,000 for compliance, and $23,700 for operating expenses. 

According to the USDA, the revised assessment rate recommended by the Committee was derived by considering anticipated expenses, expected shipments of 7.5 million cartons of fresh oranges and grapefruit and reserve funds (currently $282,572).

The proposed assessment rate of $0.02 would provide $150,000 in assessment income, according to the USDA.