Buchanan Introduces Bill to Revitalize Citrus Industry
WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to aid Florida citrus growers affected by citrus greening, a deadly bacterial disease that is crippling one of the state's most iconic industries.
“This commonsense legislation makes it less costly for citrus farmers to replant crops decimated by disease," said Buchanan, noting that greening has already spread to all 32 citrus-growing counties across the state. “I’m especially pleased that a dozen of my colleagues from Florida joined me to help protect the livelihoods of the 76,000 Floridians directly and indirectly employed by the citrus industry.”
The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act (H.R. 3957) would provide tax incentives for farmers who cannot on their own afford to replace trees affected by citrus greening. Under current law, growers are allowed an immediate deduction for the cost of replanting diseased trees, but the farmer must bear the full cost. Buchanan’s proposal would allow struggling farmers to use this deduction even if they bring in investors to raise capital for replanting costs, as long as the grower continues to own a major stake in the grove. It also extends this incentive to purchasers of land with diseased trees.
Locally, Dean Mixon, president of Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton said that he is “very pleased and proud” of Buchanan’s work, noting that “in order to survive, the Florida citrus industry needs to make a serious investment to replant nearly 300,000 acres of citrus that has been lost to invasive pest and disease.”
Florida citrus groups were quick to support Buchanan’s legislation. Michael W. Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, said that “as our production continues to drop, the Florida citrus industry is in a crisis situation” due to citrus greening. “To counter the losses and revitalize the state’s signature industry, growers need to put more than 20 million trees into the ground over the next decade . . . the tax measure put forth by Congressman Buchanan will go a long way to getting us there,” said Sparks.
Nationally, the American Farm Bureau Federation praised Buchanan’s bill, saying that it will “help return citrus production to thousands of acres” and aid “financially distressed citrus growers . . . regrow[ing] Florida’s citrus industry to its former greatness.”
Florida’s citrus industry has been devastated by huanglongbing (HLB), a bacterial plant disease that is more commonly known citrus greening. While the disease does not harm humans or animals, it results in bitter, hard, misshapen fruit and eventually causes the trees to die. There is currently no cure for this disease, and infected trees must be destroyed.
According to a recent report from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, citrus greening has had a devastating impact on Florida’s economy over the past eight seasons and resulted in the loss of 7,513 full- and part-time jobs. Moreover, the US Department of Agriculture has estimated that citrus provides Florida’s economy approximately $9 billion a year.
Buchanan helped lead efforts last year to secure $125 million to combat citrus greening as part of a five-year farm bill that President Obama signed into law. The legislation also provided for $125 million in discretionary funding that needs to be acquired through the yearly appropriations process.
Buchanan is also Co-Chairman of Florida delegation and the Congressional Citrus Caucus.