Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outrage as Citrus Canker Effort Ends; Many Residents Are Told That the State Is out of Funds for Reimbursement

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outrage as Citrus Canker Effort Ends; Many Residents Are Told That the State Is out of Funds for Reimbursement

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY MARAGHY

Orange Park citrus tree owners are furious to learn that the federal government has ended Florida's Citrus Canker Eradication Program and they won't be compensated any time soon for the trees -- including more than 598 healthy looking ones -- that were destroyed.

"The whole thing was ridiculous," said Plants 4 Less nursery owner Debi Peirson who lost 76 disease-free potted trees she valued at about $6,000.

The 10-year-old program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, aimed to wipe out a highly contagious plant disease destroying Florida's citrus industry by removing and destroying infected citrus trees and exposed trees, which includes all citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree. But eradication now seems impossible because hurricanes in 2005 spread the disease far and wide.

Six citrus trees in Orange Park that were slated for demolition escaped the ax. State agriculture officials said they will develop a new strategy aimed at controlling and suppressing canker infestations.

Twenty-eight infected trees were discovered in Orange Park more than six months ago. Citrus tree owners were shocked, heartbroken and angry to learn that their trees, which showed no signs of illness, would be destroyed.

At a town meeting, state agricultural agents promised reimbursement. For the first tree lost, residents were promised a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart's garden center plus $55 in cash for each additional tree.

Residents said they feel their losses were in vain. Many have received letters stating that the state is out of funds for reimbursement.

"It's ridiculous. It's a farce. The whole thing. We got nothing. I wish I'd stuck to my fight on that," said Johnnie Patterson, who wishes she had never allowed state agents to take her two trees. …

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