As a show of support for one of the state’s largest industries, the Florida Legislature included $2 million in the 2011-2012 budget to help citrus growers fight pests and diseases.

The funding will go directly to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), which manages ongoing citrus research for the $9 billion industry. The measure still must be approved by the Governor.

“I would personally like to thank Senator J.D. Alexander and Representative Denise Grimsley for making sure this research funding was included in the budget,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “They each have the foresight to know how important citrus research is to maintaining the 76,000 jobs our industry supports.”

The Florida citrus industry is currently battling a destructive disease known as HLB, or citrus greening. The disease is found in all 32 commercial citrus producing counties. It spreads fast and can kill a tree in less than two years. Over the past five years, Florida citrus growers through a self-assessment have funded more than $50 million in research designed to combat HLB.

“Florida growers have a lot of skin in the game and they understand the urgency of the situation,” Sparks said. “It is encouraging to know the state of Florida is there to help a formidable industry that defines our state to residents and tourists alike.”

“The very future of Florida citrus is at stake.”

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