POLK COUNTY, Florida – Florida citrus farmers have warned that diseased trees and the state's string of hurricane hits could soon send citrus prices at the supermarket soaring.
Since July, canker, a citrus tree disease that causes fruit to drop prematurely, has cost farmers nearly half a billion dollars in lost product. Farmers, unable to contain the disease, have been forced to set infested trees on fire every day.
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To add to their woes, a new tree disease called greening has popped up among Florida's citrus trees. Farmers say they don't know much about the new disease, or how it spreads, but they do know that as it kills off their trees, it kills their chances of producing a good crop as well.
This season's bad run has one Florida lawmaker calling for aid for the state's farmers.
"We provide a program thats going to give Florida farmers the same kind of aid that Midwestern farmers are getting or any other farmers get when they have a different kind of disaster," Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said.
In a good year, Florida produces up to 230 million boxes of citrus fruits, but in the past 15 months, more than 10 million fruit-bearing trees have been destroyed.