One of Florida's biggest industries will be wiped out, obliterated, within five years. One of our senators says that will happen if we don't come up with a cure for a disease that's hammering our state's citrus crops.
The disease is called "citrus greening" and it could be devastating.
Florida's orange groves translate into 76,000 jobs, $9 billion a year for the state's economy, and our identity around the world. That's all in jeopardy.
Growers are looking at a statewide disaster caused by a bug smaller than a gnat. It's the Asian Citrus Psyllid, and it showed up in Florida about ten years ago.
As it goes from tree to tree, it spreads a tiny bacteria. The bacteria doesn't hurt humans. But it does cause fruit to fall early from trees, shaped all wrong, and tasting bitter.
The only early sign growers get that they've been hit by citrus greening is leaves that are blotchy and curled. But there's nothing they can do -- there's no cure.
A University of Florida study found Florida has already lost billions from its economy as the plague has taken hold.
In its session that just ended, the Florida Legislature approved $8 million to research a cure. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has helped line up $11 million in federal money.
He says the disease will destroy the citrus industry and the growers' way of life before 2020 if we don't find a cure.
Anything that hurts citrus hurts us especially hard here in the Tampa Bay area. About half of Florida's counties grow citrus and Polk generally leads them all.
Plus, Tropicana is based here in the Bay Area, in Bradenton, and it's the world's number one buyer of Florida oranges.
Grayson Kamm, 10 News