USDA Delivers Lump of Coal to California Lemon Growers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a proposal to allow Argentine lemons into the United States from pest- and disease-infested areas. In a statement California Citrus Mutual said the Obama administration acknowledges that “lemon producers, packinghouses, wholesalers and related establishments will be adversely affected economically.”

“As a lemon producer this callous disregard for our family farmer based industry is shocking inasmuch ‘our welfare losses’ as described in the rule just don’t count,” Richard Pidduck, chair for the U.S. Citrus Science Council, said in a California Citrus Mutual press release. “We asked former USDA scientists, the state entomologist, economic experts from University of Arizona and formerly with USDA to evaluate the proposal all of whom expressed concern with the proposal as written this past summer.”

Bringing product into the United States from pest and/or disease infected areas creates vulnerability for the nation’s largest fresh citrus-producing state. “Today my production costs are increasing,” Pidduck said, “as I battle a number of introduced pests in order to provide a quality product for American consumers. As my costs go up I become less competitive in a fresh market as less expensive off shore product steal shelf space.”

In December two reports were issued by USDA, one noting that the numbers of family farmers were shrinking in America while the second cited a continued reduction in farm income. “Revenues for the [2014-15] citrus crop year versus [2013-14] were down $600 million,” Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said in the release. “This administration and this secretary [of agriculture] fail to connect the dots.”

Pidduck serves as chair for the U.S. Citrus Science Council, a coalition of family farmers that have monitored import actions for pest and disease issues since 1998. During that time frame a plethora of import rules for countries such as Uruguay, Morocco, Australia, Chile and Spain have been accepted without challenge by council members. “But as my costs rise for invasive pests and disease, most notably the Asian Citrus Psyllid and Huanglongbing, I am being asked to accept more vulnerability,” Pidduck said.

Source: The Produce News

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