US Rep. Tom Rooney secures funding for citrus disease research

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US Rep. Tom Rooney announced Thursday that the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY 2014 includes funding for citrus disease research which he had worked hard to secure.

Rooney’s efforts come at an important time: the total citrus acreage in Florida has fallen by 26 percent since 1997, and unless this trend is reversed, many fear that the state’s annual crop will be too small to sustain existing processing plants.

Diseases such as citrus greening are driving many growers out of businesses — however, agricultural researchers are working to develop methods to reduce transmission and enhance immunity.

“A strong citrus industry in Florida is critical to growing our economy and creating jobs in our state, but it’s also vital to maintaining a safe, affordable and abundant food supply for our nation,” Rooney said in a statement. “By cutting waste in other areas and setting clear priorities, the Agriculture Appropriations bill we approved in committee today will save taxpayers money overall, while providing a much-needed increase in funding for citrus disease research.”

Rooney had made three key requests, all of which are included in the Ag, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for 2014: funds for Citrus Greening Disease Research, the Citrus Health Response Program, and Huanglongbing (citrus greening) eradication research.

A total of $19.5 billion is provided in discretionary funding by the bill, including increases of nearly $2 million for pest detection programs and about $1 million for plant protection programs.