California Citrus Mutual was recently awarded a Specialty Crop Block Grant to continue the residential citrus tree removal program in the HLB quarantine area. The “Remove My Citrus” initiative is a free, voluntary program offered to residents in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties to help stop the spread of HLB.
The program began in 2017 and was originally funded by USDA’s HLB MAC Group as part of a research project by the University of California.. Door hangers, posters, direct mail, and social media ads encouraged residents in San Gabriel and Anaheim to contact CCM through the website www.removemycitrus.com to have their tree removed. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the grant funds were quickly put to use.
Following the success of the first initiative, CCM applied for a Specialty Crop Block Grant through CDFA to continue the program and expand it into areas where HLB has recently been detected.
This week we launched a robust, hyper-local outreach campaign targeting homeowners in the Westminster area where a large number of HLB-positive trees have been detected in the past several weeks.
Similar to efforts in 2017 and 2018, outreach is being done via door hangers, direct mail, and social media ads in English and Vietnamese. Additionally, CCM has partnered with the local Master Gardeners Chapter to host a public education meeting in Westminster about HLB and the tree removal program.
We have also partnered with local Assembly Member Tyler Diep on a series of public service announcements that will be aired on Vietnamese radio leading up to the meeting.
The voluntary tree removal program and the funding provided by USDA and now CDFA is a critical component of the industry’s efforts to stop HLB. The extensive number of backyard citrus trees is a significant risk to the industry and is the greatest obstacle to stopping HLB. The lag time between infection and visual symptoms of the disease creates an even bigger challenge that can only be addressed by proactively removing trees that are likely infected. However, there is no legal mechanism to force homeowners to remove trees unless they test positive for HLB and asking a homeowner to incur the costs of removing a tree is an uphill climb.
If measured by the number of trees removed, the best path for success is the voluntary, is the free tree removal program.