Press Release

Cuellar Helps Deliver Over $116 Million to Support Citrus Growers

Funding will help support efforts to battle Citrus Greening and Fruit Flies in the Valley

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WASHINGTON, July 12, 2017 | Rafael Benavides ((956) 725-0639) | comments

Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced the inclusion of more than $116 million in federal funds he helped secure in the Fiscal Year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill to help fight Citrus Greening Disease and fruit flies.

To help Rio Grande Valley farmers battle the scourge of Citrus Greening Disease, the Congressman advocated for and secured over $57 million for the Citrus Health Response Program and Huanglongbing Multi-Agency Coordination Group operated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). He was also able to help secure over $59 million for fruit fly exclusion and detection.

The U.S. citrus industry is worth $11 billion; however, due to Citrus Greening Disease and fruit flies, the industry has faced steep damages and economic losses. All of the citrus growing counties in Texas are under quarantine, and the State of Florida has seen a reduction in citrus production of over 60% since 2007. In addition, the Asian Citrus Psyllid, the vector of the Greening Disease, has been found in California.

“The spread of this disease has called the domestic citrus industry’s future into question. That is why this funding is so vitally important,” said Congressman Cuellar.  “Our citrus growers, through their hard work, feed America and the world, so controlling these pests and diseases is a top priority. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, it is my job to make sure the USDA has the funding to protect our food supply. That is why I have consistently fought for significant funding for the USDA-APHIS citrus programs.”

He continued, “I would like to thank Congressmen Valadao and Congressman Rooney, both representing states that have also suffered from Citrus Greening, for their help in securing this funding. I would also like to thank fellow Rio Grande Valley Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela for working with me on these issues. Finally, I would especially like to recognize Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt and Ranking Member Sanford Bishop for their leadership and assistance.”

Dale Murden of Texas Citrus Mutual, a nonprofit trade association representing Texas citrus growers, owns a citrus grove in the Rio Grande Valley and has personally seen the effects of citrus diseases like citrus greening since it was first positively identified in the Valley in 2008.

“Congressman Cuellar has long supported agriculture and the United States and Texas Citrus Industries,” Mr. Murden said. “Can you imagine the Rio Grande Valley without citrus trees? Because, that is what could happen if we do not stay on top of this issue.  We cannot thank Congressman Cuellar enough for his support and his bi-partisan approach to problem-solving.”

The FY18 Agriculture Appropriations bill is one of twelve annual appropriations bills the Congress uses to fund the federal government each fiscal year. This bill passed the House Appropriations Committee today and now awaits action by the full House of Representatives before being sent to the Senate and on to the President. Congressman Cuellar is a member of the Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over drafting these bills. 

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