Last week, CCM hosted a lunchtime briefing at the Capitol for legislative staff on the status of HLB in California and the industry’s continued efforts to prevent the disease from spreading into commercial groves.

The briefing included a panel discussion with CCM Director of Government Affairs Alyssa Houtby, CPDPP Interim Director Victoria Hornbaker, and Dr. Neil McRoberts, entomologist at UC Davis and scientific advisor to the CPDPP.

“Our goal in hosting the briefing was to provide legislative staff with a comprehensive overview of the issue and how the industry, by partnering with state and federal governments, residents, and the research community, is working proactively in the urban areas to prevent the disease from devastating the commercial industry as it has in Florida,” says Houtby.

“It’s very important that the legislature understands that citrus growers have invested millions of dollars into stopping HLB and most of those funds have been directed into urban areas to protect backyard citrus trees,” continues Houtby.

“As the number of HLB positive trees has increased, so has the overall interest in this issue in the Capitol, particularly among Los Angeles area legislators.  For example, Assembly Woman Christina Garcia (D – Bell Gardens) commented in a budget subcommittee meeting last week that HLB has been found in a number of cities in her district and that the state should continue supporting the industry’s efforts.”

In both 2017 and 2018 the legislature approved funding from the State General Fund for the Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program to continue carrying out the program’s core activities including survey and sampling, the biological control program, and public education and outreach.

“Our number one priority in Sacramento right now is to ensure the CPDPP continues to receive funding from the state in the next fiscal year and to secure that funding in the state budget for future years.

“Last year, Governor Brown’s budget included $2.5 million for the program and we were able to get that amount increased to $12.5 million through the legislative process. We are hopeful that we can solidify a total of $10 million from the General Fund in perpetual funding. If successful, this would essentially guarantee the Program at least $10 million in state funds each year.”

Governor Newsom’s 2018-19 budget proposal, released in January, includes $5 million in General Funds for the CPDPP for 2018-19 and ongoing.  This represents a $2.5 million increase over the ongoing funding approved in last year’s state budget. The additional funding was requested by CDFA through a “Budget Change Proposal” or BCP, which is the process by which an agency can request General Funds or spending authority in the State Budget.

CDFA’s BCP requested $2.5 million ongoing from General Fund and $2.5 million in ongoing authority from the Ag fund (citrus grower assessments), above what is already authorized, to establish a new citrus division within CDFA and authorized 65 new positions. CDFA has authority to move existing authority for 149 positions which are currently vacant to the citrus division.  According to CDFA, the division requires 226 employees to carry out all functions of the program at existing levels.

A dedicated citrus division is needed to better handle the sudden and unexpected increase in HLB detections and allow CDFA to more effectively initiate detection, suppression, eradication, and quarantine regulation enforcement activities.

“The level of interest in the HLB briefing is very encouraging.  The panel presented a very compelling argument about why the State should continue supporting the industry’s efforts in stopping HLB,” concludes Houtby.