Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples today appointed a task force aimed at protecting the Texas citrus industry from citrus greening – a disease transmitted by the Asian Citrus Psyllid. The insect is confirmed to exist in 56 Texas counties. However, citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing, does not currently exist in Texas, but has been found in neighboring Louisiana. The disease also exists in Florida where it has devastated more than 100,000 acres of citrus.

“As Texans, we are accustomed to going to the grocery store and having a variety of grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes available for our picking,” Commissioner Staples said. “To ensure we continue to have this available and affordable supply of citrus, we are taking action to protect our industry from harmful agricultural pests and diseases.”

Citrus plants are also very popular backyard plants throughout the southern half of Texas. If citrus greening becomes established in the state, Texas could lose this important economic and aesthetic part of its landscape.

“Texas citrus growers have seen the devastation of citrus greening in Florida and are supportive of aggressive efforts to prevent a similar fate in Texas,” said Ray Prewett, president of Texas Citrus Mutual. “The appointment of this task force by Commissioner Staples is a very important step in doing everything the state and the industry can do to prevent the establishment of this disease in Texas.”

The citrus greening task force will work to control the Asian Citrus Psyllid in Texas; create a plan with protocols for protecting the citrus nursery industry; and develop a plan for managing citrus greening if it enters Texas. The team will then forward any recommendations to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Regulatory Division.

“With the assistance of the newly created task force, I am certain we can implement appropriate measures that will protect our vital citrus industry and the livelihood of our farmers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” Commissioner Staples said.

The Texas citrus industry contributes more than $150 million annually to the state’s economy. The Lone Star State ranks second in the nation for the production of grapefruit and third for oranges.

For a list of the task force members and more information on the group’s objectives, visit www.tda.state.tx.us.