Help could be on the way for Southwest Florida citrus farmers as they deal with added struggles from the pandemic.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) wants to ban commercially-produced citrus imports from China.
The number of stressors for U.S. citrus growers piles up by the day. Just ask Ron Mahan, who operates four Florida citrus farms, including 1,000 acres of new trees in DeSoto County.
“We’ve had to adjust our practices at the groves, maintaining social distancing of our employees,” said Mahan, vice president and CFO of Tamiami Citrus.
Adding to his heightened hassle: more industry competition, since the USDA approved importing fresh citrus from China, and disease, like citrus greening.
“The disease, we have to spend a lot more to keep the trees alive to produce, but the disease also reduces the productivity of the groves as well,” he said.
“There’s a lot more than just the domestic production competition. The other issues are the safety of bringing in pests from outside the United States,” Steube said.
He represents the largest citrus-producing district in the U.S., and believes banning commercial citrus imports from China can diminish their dilemma.
“When you were importing citrus from a different country, there are pests and different diseases that you could be bringing into the United States,” he said.
“The people want fresh orange juice and would like to continue eating fresh citrus,” Mahan said.
Steube’s bill was referred to the US House Ways and Means Committee on June 11.