Florida's Oranges Could Vanish

Over 6 years, citrus greening cost state $4.5B and 8K jobs
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2013 9:07 AM CDT
Florida's Oranges Could Vanish
An orange that is showing signs of citrus greening disease.   (AP Photo/The Monitor, Nathan Lambrecht, File)

(Newser) – Florida's $9 billion citrus industry is under threat from a disease called citrus greening, and this year's harvest has been the hardest hit yet, with production down 10% from initial estimates. Greening, which causes citrus fruit to become bitter and fall off trees before it's ripe, is estimated to have cost the state $4.5 billion and 8,000 jobs since 2006, the New York Times reports; the disease first surfaced in Florida the year prior, and no cure has yet been identified. "This year was a real kick in the gut," says Florida's agriculture commissioner. "It is now everywhere, and it’s just as bad as the doomsayers said it would be."

Florida growers have already spent more than $60 million in pursuit of a cure, in addition to millions from the federal Department of Agriculture. A bill to fund up to $150 million in research over five years was shot down by Congress earlier this year, amid concerns about the fiscal cliff, reports The Ledger. But time is running out: The disease has already spread to Texas, California, and Arizona. "Now there is a real sense of urgency," says the CEO of a citrus grower trade organization. "We are not doing research to publish a paper but research we can get on the back of a tractor." (Read more Florida stories.)

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