Sen. Nelson wants to fight citrus greening - WFLA News Channel 8

Sen. Nelson wants to fight citrus greening

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Citrus greening causes bitter, misshapen fruit Citrus greening causes bitter, misshapen fruit
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Senator Bill Nelson is ramping up the pressure on his Congressional counterparts to pass legislation that would fund citrus research. 

At a meeting of the Florida Citrus Commission in Bartow today, Nelson said a trust fund he’s already proposed is necessary to combat greening which is devastating the industry in several states.

Greening is a disease that has already affected groves in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona according to Nelson.  The disease causes misshapen fruit that has a bitter taste. The citrus ultimately becomes unusable for fresh fruit or for juice.

"It truly threatens the industry," explained Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Marty McKenna. "We're seeing it get worse and worse every year as you can see by the crop estimates coming down every year," he said.

Senator Nelson has already proposed legislation that would fund disease fighting research for five years tapping into a $90 million a year tariff paid on all Brazilian citrus that comes into the country.

"Something as simple as this ought to be done with the snap of your fingers, and yet it has been a herculean effort now going on the fourth year," Nelson said.

He blames partisan politics for stalling the legislative effort. Now he and industry insiders hope consumers turn up the heat on lawmakers.

"Well the bottom line is, if we can't address this invasive pest and disease the consumer at home will lose orange juice on their breakfast table," said Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks.

Under Senator Nelson's proposed legislation citrus research would be funded for five years at about $30 million a year. He's confident scientists could make major headway in that time.

"They've got a lot of promising research that's going on at several of the U.S. research stations, so I'm very optimistic," Nelson said.

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