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Florida legislature proposes funds to combat citrus greening

The Florida legislature agreed to fund $9.5 million in research-related activities to combat HLB, also known as citrus greening, which threatens to wipe out Florida's $9 billion citrus industry and its 76,000 jobs.

The funding is part of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services' 2013-14 budget, which still must be approved by Gov. Rick Scott. The funds would include $8 million for HLB reserved research and incremental funding of $500,000 for each of the related FDACS programs (citrus nursery certification, citrus germplasm facility and citrus pest management).

"Of course, Commissioner Adam Putnam has done yeoman's work to help our industry battle HLB," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest citrus grower trade organization, said in a press release. "He knows we are in the fight of our life and this state investment is critical to get some short-term research answers. We also commend state legislators for showing this level of commitment to one of the state's most important signature industries."

HLB is a vascular disease vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid. It is found in all of Florida's 32 citrus-producing counties and can kill a tree in two years.