The following is a press release from California Citrus Mutual:
With his veto pen in hand, Governor Jerry Brown once again signaled to Californians and the Nation that agriculture is not an important industry for California.
“His veto of AB 571 is a clear message to our industry that citrus no longer has a home in California,” states CCM President Joel Nelsen. “AB 571 passed through four committees and two houses of the state legislature without opposition. The Governor vetoed a bill designed to protect Southern California home owners, the commercial citrus industry, and the pioneering use of biological control to stop the Asian citrus psyllid and deadly citrus disease Huanglongbing. He sent the same message 30 years ago with his unwillingness to eradicate the medfly and now California’s $2 billion iconic citrus industry has been given the same message – that we are not important.”
The California citrus industry exists significantly in eight counties, employs over 12,000 people, with a foundation of over 3,900 producers, the vast majority of whom are family farmers who ship fresh product from approximately 100 shippers, generating an additional $1.5 billion in economic activity. Citrus growers, packing houses, and their employees submit $500 million in general fund support via taxes each year. In terms of fees and permits the industry forwards another $112 million to underwrite state government mandates.
“But I guess none of that is important,” continues Nelsen.
The California citrus industry has assessed itself over $60 million in detection and treatment for the Asian citrus psyllid. The federal government has put forth an estimated $40 million in an effort to protect the nation’s number one fresh citrus industry.The state of Florida has financially partnered with their industry to defend against the ravages of Huanglongbing.
“But not our Governor,” states Nelsen. “Governor Brown’s veto of AB 571 sends a clear message to all agriculture stakeholders, that this administration does not care about the citrus industry or California agriculture.”
There are more citrus trees in Southern California backyards than in the entire commercial citrus industry. “Funds from AB 571 were destined for biological control in the Los Angeles Basin,” continues Nelsen. “Biological control would reduce the threat of diseased Asian citrus psyllids from infecting back yard trees. That’s how it started in Florida and now over 250,000 acres of prime citrus have been destroyed or abandoned in that state. Brazil has eliminated over 12 million trees because of the disease. Every state in Mexico with citrus is infected with the disease for which there is no known cure. But I guess none of that is important to the Governor.”
In his veto message the Governor states, “Let’s review our options during the budget process.”
To this Nelsen responds, “The Governor’s veto message is laughable! The legislature approved $1 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, but his Department of Finance will not release the funds!”
AB 571 was initiated by members of his own party as a vehicle to better protect their constituents. “But the Governor states with his veto that this visionary approach is not important,” Nelson continued.
Designed by representatives of the citrus industry in partnership with the scientific community and regulatory bodies at the state and federal level, the California’s effort to stop the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing has been touted across the country as a vibrant example of private and public sector partnerships.
“But I guess that’s not important to this Governor,” concludes Nelsen. “His definition of leadership is duplicating the destruction that continues to spread throughout the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Belize and China.”