In the aftermath of this year's legislative session and Gov. Jerry Brown's bill-signing period, there were very few of his 96 vetoes that I disagreed with.
In fact, I probably could have lived with quite a few more than 96 vetoes compared to the 805 new bills that he signed. But I'm extremely concerned about one particular veto this year that could have a very negative impact on our local economy. You should be, too.
AB 571 by Assembly Member Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat, would have appropriated $5 million on a one-time basis from the state's general fund to supplement research and necessary programs to stop the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid, a small bug that poses a huge problem for the entire citrus industry in California.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the citrus psyllid is a concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB), which the University of California says can kill a citrus tree in as few as five years, with no known cure. While a cure continues to be researched, the only way to protect the trees is to prevent the spread of the HLB pathogen in the first place, by controlling psyllid populations and removing and destroying any infected trees.
Because California has more citrus trees in backyards than in commercial production, the funds from AB 571 would have been put to use fighting the psyllid in the Los Angeles Basin, where household citrus growers need to be educated about the dangers of this bug.
And let's be clear: The economic damage from these pests can be huge. In Florida, where the disease was first detected, the University of Florida estimates the disease has resulted in the loss of more than 6,600 jobs, $1.3 billion in lost revenue to growers and $3.6 billion in lost economic activity.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has recently announced quarantines in Tulare and Kern counties following the detection of psyllids in Dinuba and Wasco. The area in Kern County is now 88 square miles and the Tulare quarantine covers 90 square miles. Unfortunately, the quarantines continued to move north as of Oct. 1. Tulare County quarantines were recently expanded into the Dinuba area and a portion of Fresno County.
The quarantine prohibits the movement of host nursery stock out of the quarantine area and requires that all commercial citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of the area. A permit may be obtained to move nursery stock and budwood out of the area, if grown in USDA-approved structures designed to keep the psyllids out. Residents with backyard citrus trees in the quarantine locations are asked not to remove fruit from their areas.
The California Citrus Mutual reports the industry has assessed itself more than $60 million in detection and treatment for the psyllids. The federal government has put forth an estimated $40 million in an effort to protect the nation's No. 1 fresh citrus industry. The state of Florida has committed to the effort there. But even after the Legislature approved $5 million for California on a bipartisan, unanimous vote, Gov. Brown disagreed, saying we need to consider the expenditure in the context of next year's budget.
We need to act quickly in California, and AB 571 would have provided a nice shot in the arm for the defense of our citrus industry. It's unfortunate that Gov. Brown didn't think so. I hope he will reconsider and act as quickly as possible when the Legislature returns in January.
For more information on the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing, please visit the California Department of Food and Agriculture website www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/acp/.
Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, represents California's 18th District. It includes Bakersfield, Barstow, Big Bear City, Bishop, California City, Exeter, Frazier Mountain, Lone Pine, Mojave, Needles, Porterville, Ridgecrest, Rosamond, Taft, Tehachapi, Twentynine Palms, Tulare, Visalia and other areas in the Kern River Valley and in Inyo and San Bernardino counties.