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Senate Ag Committee to hold meeting on citrus bug crisis
Citrus Bug 2
Although no additional Asian Citrus Psyllids have been found in Stanislaus County following the discovery of one insect in Oakdale in January, citrus growers are encouraged to continue checking their trees for the tiny invasive insect that causes the incurable citrus greening disease. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Senator Cathleen Galgiani, will hold an informational hearing titled “Crisis in the Golden State: Asian Citrus Psyllid’s Threat to Destroy California Citrus” on Tuesday the State Capitol. 

As already seen in Florida, this tiny pest and the disease it carries, Huanglongbing (HLB), has the ability to devastate both the citrus industry as well as residential citrus trees.  The aim of the hearing is to focus on the crisis facing California citrus due to the rapid spread of ACP throughout the state and the additional finds of HLB in the Los Angeles Basin.  Expert witnesses will discuss current state, federal, and local actions to detect, control, and prevent the spread of ACP and HLB; the economic impact of ACP/HLB in California; and strategies and solutions to mitigate the spread of ACP/HLB and efforts to find a cure to treat infected trees.

The first discovery of ACP and HLB in the United States was in Florida in 1998 and early September 2005, respectively.  Within 2 years, the disease HLB spread to all citrus-producing counties and infected over half of all citrus trees in the state.  Studies have shown that the economic damage due to HLB in Florida alone has resulted in a loss of $7.8 billion and 7,513 jobs since 2007, reducing the industry to nearly a quarter of the size it once was.  HLB has also been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and most recently, California.

In 2008, ACP was first identified in Southern California.  In the last two years, ACP has rapidly spread north into commercial citrus groves and residential trees, and quarantine boundaries have expanded to encompass one-third of the state.  Meanwhile, in March 2012, HLB was detected in a residential, multi-grafted citrus tree in Los Angeles County.  The tree was destroyed, however the disease was detected again in late 2015 in 17 trees located in the surrounding areas.

The new HLB finds and the rapid northern migration of ACP is a cause of serious concern. Not only would commercial citrus groves be devastated, but cherished residential citrus trees would also die.  Over half of all California citrus trees are found in cityscapes and backyards.  Currently, there is no cure for HLB and California would lose millions of citrus trees if ACP continues to spread and carry HLB throughout the state.

The Senate Ag Committee meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the California State Capitol Room 113, in Sacramento.