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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) praised rule changes that will permit Florida citrus to be shipped to all 50 states once more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the rule change Oct. 22; it takes effect immediately.

"This is a victory for science-based regulations, a victory for Florida fresh fruit growers and shippers, and a victory for consumers all over America who look forward to receiving fresh citrus from Florida in the winter," Rep. Putnam said in a press release. "This comes not a moment too soon, as this marks the beginning of the Florida fruit shipment season."

The USDA decision will allow citrus fruit to go to all U.S. states as long as it has been treated with approved decontamination measures, is packed within a facility having a compliance agreement with USDA, and meets other USDA revised rules. The previous requirement that fruit be inspected and found free of citrus canker has been eliminated for fruit destined to the interstate market. The USDA said that scientific evidence proves that commercially packed and treated fruit does not spread citrus canker.

USDA's action could affect more than 50 citrus packinghouses within the state. Florida packinghouses had shipped nearly 1.5 million cartons valued at $10 million annually to the affected markets in the past. Reaction from Florida's fresh fruit growers and shippers has been extremely positive.

Some overseas export restrictions still remain in place by importing countries, but discussions among USDA and major trading partners, such the European Union, are ongoing regarding revised export rules.

The citrus industry, directly and indirectly, generates roughly 76,000 full- time and part-time jobs. In addition to jobs, the industry makes an important contribution to economic activity within Florida each year. The total impact of citrus in Florida's economy is approximately $9 billion a year, according to the press release.

Since 2001, Mr. Putnam has represented Florida's 12th congressional district, which includes most of Polk County and portions of Hillsborough and Osceola counties.