South Florida Members Of Congress Ros-Lehtinen, Wasserman Schultz, Diaz-Balart, Wilson, & Rivera Ask USDA To Implement Proposal Put Forth By FL Ag Comm. Putnam That Addresses Threat By Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle/Laurel Wilt Disease On Our Avocado Crop
Washington, DC- Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) lead a letter that was sent out today to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack supporting a proposal developed by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam to address the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle/Laurel Wilt disease. This disease affects avocado and swamp bay trees.
In February 2011, the Florida Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of this disease in the western edge of Miami-Dade County, in the Bird Drive basin.
Other co-signers include: Congs. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, Frederica Wilson, and David Rivera.
Said Ros-Lehtinen, “This insect and the disease it carries have the capacity to cause great damage to growers avocado trees leading to millions of dollars in lost profits and hundreds if not thousands of layoffs. The proposal put forth by Commissioner Putnam would help with ongoing efforts to control this disease and lessen its destruction. It is imperative that federal agriculture officials help us battle this dangerous pest and its devastating effects on our avocado crop.”
Text of the letter follows:
December 7, 2012
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) prepares its Fiscal Year 2013 Spending Plan, we respectfully request that you give full and fair consideration to the proposal submitted by the Florida Department of Agriculture to address the Laurel Wilt disease impacting Florida's avocado industry. Section 10201 of the 2008 Farm Bill provides appropriate USDA funding mechanisms that can be used to help with the ongoing efforts to control this disease and mitigate its destruction.
In February 2011, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) announced that the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle/Laurel Wilt (RAB/LWD) was confirmed on swamp bay trees in Miami-Dade County, less than 5 miles away from the commercial avocado production area, where essentially all commercial avocado production in Florida is centered.
The avocado industry in Miami-Dade County represents the 2nd largest commercial fruit crop in Florida, generates more than $30 million a year in wholesale sales, covers more than 7,000 acres and sustains approximately 1,000 jobs. Avocado trees are also one of the main canopy trees within the residential areas of the County. Recent aerial surveys over the avocado production area indicate that over 50 new trees have been infected, on top of the 300 symptomatic trees that have been removed, with many more having undergone treatment.
The 2011 find of RAB/LWD in Miami-Dade County is cause for great concern to the natural environment, Miami-Dade's avocado industry and the homeowners of the area. The proposal submitted by the Florida Department of Agriculture can help to limit the progression of this pest and disease and mitigate its devastating impact.
While it is our understanding that total eradication may not be possible, enhanced mitigation capabilities and assistance can stem the tide of the disease's impact on the County's avocado industry. In accordance with all applicable rules and regulations, we respectfully request that you give full and fair consideration to the proposal submitted by the Florida Department of Agriculture for Laurel Wilt mitigation in your FY2013 Spending Plan.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Debbie Wasserman Schulz
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Mario Diaz-Balart David Rivera
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Member of Congress