NO SURE ANSWERS IN CANKER WAR
Citrus growers heard what they didn't want to hear from state and federal officials Thursday (May 26). At a meeting of the Citrus Canker Technical Advisory Task Force in Lake Alfred, a USDA scientist questioned whether the threshold for successful eradication had passed, and other USDA authorities gave no guarantees that all compensation money owed would ever materialize.
"There are thresholds for eradication. Uncontrolled
it will increase," said Dr. Tim Gottwald, a researcher with
USDA Agricultural Research Service in Ft. Pierce. "The rate
of removal has to exceed the rate of new infections." He
said eradication takes time and things like wind, rain and international
movement of people work against efforts. "We have to deal
with this between storms. Human global spread and hurricanes make
spread unpredictable," Gottwald said.
Money, manpower and the legal system also slow
down eradication. "The disease does not respect what's going
on in the courts," said Gottwald.
USDA and state officials assured growers and other
industry members including FFVA staff that efforts are being made
to secure appropriations for both eradication and compensation,
but funds can't be guaranteed. "If Congress doesn't meet
the need, the money won't be there," said Stephen Poe, a
USDA official and a task force member.
Excluding the most recent outbreaks, Poe said
USDA received 159 potential compensation claims from Florida growers
estimated at more than $200 million. The program has $30 million
still in the approval process for fiscal 2005, and Congress only
has budgeted only $10 million more in the proposed 2005-06 federal
budget. "So we only have enough money to pay the first 20
claims," Poe said.
As part of a joint effort between state, federal and industry members, growers were urged to train their people to inspect for canker. Training is available from the canker eradication program.
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