LAKELAND, FL. (September 17, 2014) – Florida Citrus Mutual commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture for announcing a program Wednesday designed to encourage growers to re-plant citrus.
As part of the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), eligible growers can cost share with the USDA for diseased tree removal, re-planting including labor and nursery trees. The TAP is only available to Florida growers.
“This is really good news and should go a long way to incentivize eligible growers to re-plant citrus,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “We are a resilient bunch; growers want to re-plant even in this challenging environment. The new TAP should help shoulder some of the risk.”
“I can’t thank U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Florida Farm Service Agency Executive Director Rick Dantzler for their hard work in making this program happen.”
Florida growers are now battling citrus greening, or HLB, a bacterial disease vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid. It attacks the vascular system of a tree and can kill it within two years. Citrus greening is endemic to Florida and can be found in all 32 commercial citrus producing counties.
In a conference call announcing the TAP, Vilsack said Florida citrus growers will be eligible for up to 50 percent of the cost of the removal of diseased trees and site preparation, 65 percent of the cost of replanting and labor, and 65 percent of the cost of seedlings. Losses must have occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, and individual stands must have sustained a mortality loss of 15 percent after adjustment for normal mortality. Trees that are no longer commercially viable may be considered to have met mortality. Growers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for information on the types of records needed before applying.
No person or legal entity, except joint ventures or general partnerships, may receive more than $125,000 in assistance. Individuals or entities with average gross income exceeding $900,000 are ineligible for payment. Vilsack said grower should seek approval before Sept. 30, 2014 or they could be subject to a payment reduction of 7.3 percent as required by the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011. For more information go to www.usda.gov/farmbill.
The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 525,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com. To receive winter weather updates follow FCM on Twitter; @FLCITRUSMUTUAL.