FL Congressman Putnam Calls for Aggressive Effort to Save Citrus

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, General

Congressman Adam Putnam has announced his intention to seek the job as Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture in the 2009 election cycleThis just in late today from Florida Congressman Adam Putnam’s Washington D C office:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) today told a U.S. House panel that the federal government must dramatically increase the amount of funding it is providing if it is to save America’s citrus crop from a disease known as “citrus greening.” Putnam spoke on behalf of 27 members of Congress who have signed a letter calling for the Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture to add $64 million to the effort to expand methods of diagnosing and controlling the disease.

“American citrus is a $12 billion industry that employs more than 100,000 people,” said Putnam. “And it is threatened by the world’s most destructive citrus disease, Huanglongbing, known in the United States as citrus greening.”

Spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, the disease has devastated entire groves in Florida within a few seasons, and the insect has been found in other citrus producing states, including California and Texas, Putnam said.

“There are two components to this disease: The disease itself and the insect that spreads it,” said Putnam. “In California, they have the insect, but not the disease. In Florida we have both, and it’s been disastrous.”

Currently $35.3 million is budgeted for the Citrus Health Response Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As the threat of the disease has spread, so has support for finding a way to stop it. The increased funding has broad bi-partisan support among members of Congress representing Florida, California and the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. The additional funds would be part of a coordinated national effort against greening to expand pest control and suppression activities, and provide expanded control, mitigation, detection and surveillance tools, as well as diagnostic research.

Putnam noted that dealing with greening is part of a larger need for more aggressive food security efforts. “Food is becoming globalized. Consumers are looking for vegetables from one region of the world and spices from another, and we need better ways of ensuring the safety and security of our food supply.”

Since 2001, Putnam has represented Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes most of Polk County and portions of Hillsborough and Osceola counties.