In the 2014 Farm Bill, Florida and California Citrus Mutual were successful in inserting a research program specific to ACP/HLB. It allocated $25 million a year for research across the country in this vital area. In the 2018 version, Florida and California were joined by Texas to sustain the effort and were successful in that endeavor as well. The only downfall was the addition of mandating matching funds from the research applicants. USDA compounded that addition when the Office of General Counsel (OGC) issued a statement indicating that grant applicants from the previous farm bill not receiving formal approval were also subject to the matching fund requirement. This interpretation primarily affected a joint Texas project and two other California projects.
California’s UC system called upon CCM for assistance. CCM coordinated the response which led to several communications regarding the erroneous interpretation on one front and offering a pathway to overcome the existing legal analysis. Dr. Scott Angle, NIFA Director was sympathetic to our concerns. Acting Under Secretary Dr. Scott Hutchins was sympathetic to our collective concerns but both felt OGC was the final arbiter. The three Citrus Mutuals were not to be stopped and face to face meetings were initiated with representatives of the Secretary’s office and other members of the senior management team.
Congressmen Jim Costa and Kevin McCarthy weighed in on our behalf. Last Thursday official word was received that the mandated $12 million dollars in matching funds was not necessary for the continuance of those research projects. “The citrus team came together and provided logical arguments and a sound legal interpretation which thwarted the decision of one legal member of the OGC team,” notes CCM’s Joel Nelsen.