There are more than 3,000 growers farming 320,000 acres of citrus throughout the state. Although the overall California industry is valued at approximately $3.4 billion, that success does not come without its own set of obstacles. Disease pressure and regulatory challenges are consistent issues that growers continually have to address.
“Will California go the way of Florida, which has been devastated by HLB? My conclusion is that number one, the answer is no, because California has been very proactive in controlling the spread of HLB through vector control of the Asian psyllid,” said Bruce Babcock, Professor in the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside.
Babcock also noted regulatory costs as being one of the most significant challenges facing the industry. “Regulations in California increase per-acre production costs for citrus by about $700 per acre. That’s a big number. Furthermore, citrus is disadvantaged because its labor intensive,” Babcock said in reference to the increasing minimum wage costs. “What the California legislature is doing is essentially tilting the economic competitiveness away from citrus to other crops that don’t require so much labor.”