Citrus canker is a bacterial disease that causes lesions on the leaves, stems, and fruit of plants including citrus and other plants in the citrus family. While not harmful to humans, the disease affects the health of infected citrus trees and the marketability of infected fruit. Citrus canker is mostly a leaf-spotting and fruit rind-blemishing disease, but when conditions are highly favorable for infection, infections cause defoliation, shoot dieback, and fruit drop. The bacterium that causes citrus canker is spread by wind and rain. Despite a 10-year monumental effort to eradicate the disease from Florida, a combination of program delays caused by legal challenges and an unprecedented series of storms in 2004 and 2005 spread the disease to the point where eradication was no longer possible.
On Jan. 10, 2006, the United States Secretary of Agriculture determined that eradication of citrus canker from Florida was no longer feasible and APHIS started working with State partners and industry to develop a new science-based approach for managing citrus canker. In September 2006, APHIS released the Citrus Health Response Plan, which establishes accepted standards to propagate, produce, harvest, process and ship Florida citrus fruit.
In August of 2006, APHIS published an Interim Rule that quarantined the entire State of Florida for citrus canker which allowed movement of citrus fruit from Florida to non-citrus producing states provided it originated in a grove inspected and found free of citrus canker. In November of 2007, APHIS published a final rule that eliminated the requirement that fruit originate in a grove inspected and found free of canker, but established a requirement that the fruit be inspected and found free of citrus canker in the packinghouse by an APHIS inspector. After publication of scientific studies that concluded that commercially packed fruit treated with a disinfectant is highly unlikely to serve as a pathway for the spread of citrus canker, APHIS published a final rule in October 2009 that eliminated the requirement that citrus fruit be free from citrus canker and inspected by APHIS, and once again permitted shipment of commercially packed and disinfected citrus to all US states and territories. Under the current citrus canker quarantine, the interstate movement of citrus plants and plant parts other than fruit remains prohibited with the following exception. Citrus nursery stock that is move in accordance with United States regulations contained in CFR §301.76 may move from areas quarantined for citrus canker.
Angela McMellen Brannigan
National Policy Manager