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US: Meeting today in Tulare to discuss citrus quarantine

Farmers, fruit packers, haulers and others involved in Tulare County’s citrus industry will hear today how a planned quarantine on movement of commercial citrus will affect them.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is working to enact the quarantine, and the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will hold the two seminars on the quarantine plans starting this morning at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.

CDFA decided last week to begin work to impose the quarantine after its scientists confirmed on Nov. 19 that an Asian citrus psyllid was found in an insect trap in a Strathmore orange grove.

The psyllid is capable of spreading the huanglonging bacteria — or “HLB” — from infected citrus trees to healthy trees. Once infected, a tree over the course of a few years will produce bad-tasting, mottled and deformed fruit before eventually dying.

HLB has devastated citrus crops in various parts of the world, including Brazil and China. And in Florida, the bacteria has resulted in about 200,000 acres of citrus trees being removed, acreage equal to about two-thirds of California’s commercial citrus groves.

And because there is no cure for HLB, it’s considered a major threat to California’s nearly $2 billion citrus industry if it spreads here — and Tulare County is the state’s top citrus-producing county.

Steve Lyle, a CDFA spokesman, said the quarantine plans were intended to take effect this week, but they were delayed after scientists for his agency confirmed on Nov. 21 that the remains of another Asian citrus psyllid were found in an insect trap in an orange grove about a mile south of Terra Bella.

And in December, another psyllid was found in a trap southeast of Lindsay.

All the insects were too dried out to determine if they were infected with HLB. CDFA inspectors have been checking citrus trees in the south county areas and found no signs that any trees have been infected, nor have they spotted any more psyllids, Lyle said.

CDFA officials didn’t announce the Terra Bella psyllid find until Tuesday afternoon, following inquiries by the Times-Delta.

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