USDA Delivers Lump of Coal to California Lemon Growers for Christmas
Blatantly ignoring comments from scientists and technical advisors at the National Plant Board, California Department of Food & Agriculture and members of the California citrus industry, USDA and the Obama Administration have published a proposal to allow Argentine lemons into the United States from pest and disease infested areas. Furthermore the Administration acknowledges that “lemon producers, packing houses, wholesalers and related establishments will be adversely affected economically.”
“As a lemon producer this callous disregard for our family farmer based industry is shocking inasmuch ‘our welfare losses’ as described in the rule just don’t count;” states Richard Pidduck, Chair for the U.S. Citrus Science Council. “We asked former USDA scientists, the state entomologist, economic experts from University of Arizona and formerly with USDA to evaluate the proposal all of whom expressed concern with the proposal as written this past summer.”
Bringing product into the United States from pest and/or disease infected areas creates vulnerability for the nation’s largest fresh citrus producing state. “Today my production costs are increasing,” Pidduck continues, “as I battle a number of introduced pests in order to provide a quality product for American consumers. As my costs go up I become less competitive in a fresh market as less expensive off shore product steal shelf space.”
In November the Secretary of Agriculture chastised fellow Democrats for ignoring Rural America and impacts from Administration policies. In December two reports were issued by USDA, one noting that the numbers of family farmers were shrinking in America while the second cited a continued reduction in farm income. “Revenues for the 14/15 citrus crop year versus 13/14 were down $600 million,” notes Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual a citrus producers’ trade association. “This Administration and this Secretary fail to connect the dots.”
Pidduck serves as Chair for the U.S. Citrus Science Council, a coalition of family farmers that have monitored import actions for pest and disease issues since 1998. During that time frame a plethora of import rules for countries such as Uruguay, Morocco, Australia, Chile and Spain have been accepted without challenge by Council members. “But as my costs rise for invasive pests and disease, most notably the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing, I am being asked to accept more vulnerability,” Pidduck concludes.
“Former President Eisenhower once stated,” Nelsen adds, “that farming is easy when you are one thousand miles from the field and your plow is a pencil. I guess the White House believes more in what foreign producers, importers and governments say than domestic providers of food security and scientists that participate in that process.”