Last week, CCM Directors Matt Fisher, Jared Plumlee, Keith Watkins, Zak Laffite, and Julia Inestroza traveled to Washington D.C. for meetings with USDA and Congress about some of the citrus industry’s biggest priorities, including funding for HLB prevention activities and the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill. The group was accompanied by CCM President Casey Creamer and Sr. Director of Federal Affairs Alyssa Houtby.
Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees authorize funding for the nationwide Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) and the HLB Multi-Agency Coordination Group (HLB-MAC).
In July, the House passed its appropriations “minibus” which includes the “Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies” (Ag) bill. Soon thereafter, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its bills, including S. 4661 – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Both the House and Senate bills include $71,359,000 for citrus health, including $11,514,000 for HLB–MAC.
The California citrus industry benefits directly from each of these programs. The California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Division currently receives $12.5 million to support its on-the-ground activities to prevent the spread of HLB into commercial citrus groves. The Citrus Research Board received funding from HLB-MAC to implement a California focused Citrus Research and Field Trials (CA-CRaFT) project. The overarching goal of CA-CRaFT is to demonstrate the effects of additional mitigations on Asian citrus psyllid control within commercial citrus groves.
The Senate bill also includes $1.5 million to establish a citrus breeding research program “focused on developing and evaluating citrus rootstock and scion materials in areas where citrus is grown.” The intent of this funding is to expand the existing ARS breeding program in Florida to the ARS research station in Parlier, CA. CCM worked closely with Senator Alexi Padilla to secure this funding and received support from Congressman Valadao and Congressman Costa on the House side.
While the industry’s priorities in the 2023 budget are secured, Congress is yet to pass a budget. Last week, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to extend FY22 funding levels through December 16. Between now and then, Congress must reach an agreement on and pass the FY23 budget.
While in D.C., the CCM delegation met with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Julia Brownley, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, and staff from the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee about the importance of these programs and to ensure that they are maintained in the final FY23 budget.
The citrus industry also benefits from the Farm Bill, which is reauthorized by Congress every five years. The 2013 Farm Bill included, for the first time, $25 million per year for HLB research projects. The 2018 Farm Bill maintained this funding and established the Emergency Citrus Disease Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund (Citrus Trust Fund).
The Citrus Trust Fund supports the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program. The Program’s research priorities are determined by the Citrus Disease Subcommittee, which is comprised of industry representatives from Florida, California, and Texas. CCM Director Julia Inestroza serves on the Subcommittee along with four other California representatives.
While in D.C., Inestroza lead a meeting with USDA leadership about California’s research priorities and steps that may be taken to ensure these priorities are reflected in future projects. The group carried this message to Capitol Hill as they advocated for the continuation of the Citrus Trust Fund in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Also last week, Houtby and Creamer attended the International Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington Conference. During the conference, they met with other industry organizations that comprise the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (Alliance) to finalize the collective’s priority recommendations for each title of the Farm Bill. These priority policy recommendations, including continued funding of the Citrus Trust Fund, will help shape the next Farm Bill.
The CCM staff and Board members are optimistic that these major funding priorities for the California citrus industry will be realized.
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