In 1910, Florida endured a state-wide infestation of Citrus Canker. It took 22 years for eradication.
In 1995 inspectors found citrus canker on citrus trees around Miami International Airport.
Canker is a bacterium, Xanthomonas axonopodis pathovar citri, that blemishes fruit, leaves and weakens citrus trees. It is NOT harmful to humans or animals.
click to see canker pic
Since that time in Miami Dade alone, the State of Florida has killed tens of thousands of citrus trees without compensation to property owners. Some property owners are going to court ....but that's another story.
Broward County is next. A literal house-by-house inspection (just like in 1983-84) is under way right now. If canker is said to be found on your trees, the State will chop down your trees and walk away.
When (not if) they show up at your door, be certain to ask for and examine their official state agriculture department badges. Don't let anyone prowl around your property without checking identification. Call the police if you are suspicious.
Broward already has had official (don't you just love that word?) canker confirmations in Pembroke Pines and Hallandale. Since the State has no effective treatment for canker, your trees will be chopped if/when canker is found.
Guess if the Med Fly doesn't get ya, the canker will....
Update: August 8, 1998
State wants to 'reforest' canker sites
The Miami Herald updated the canker story August 8...
"After chopping down 86,995 citrus trees in its attempt to eradicate citrus canker in Miami-Dade County, the state of Florida is offering $3 million olive branch to some 10,000 homeowners.
The Florida Department of Agriculture now wants to give vouchers to homeowners so they can 'reforest' the county with shade trees, said Vivian Rudd, a spokeswoman for the citrus canker eradication program.
The idea is to replace lost canopies and fresh fruit through a voucher-purchase system for either new trees or other plants and planting materials from participating nurseries."
In April 1999, we received a copy of "Fighting the THREAT of CITRUS CANKER" published by the State of Florida.
The contents are about the survey and destruction crews, their procedures, what to expect, etc..
In the FAQ section, the significant question is "Is the disease harmful to me?" The answer is stated as "No, citrus canker does not harm humans or animals or plant life other than citrus."
Note also the fruit is unaffected, perfectly edible as normal. The visible affects include brown leaves and fruit, raised lesions surrounded by oily, water-soaked margin and a yellow ring or halo. Old lesions may fall out creating a shot-hole effect.
Update: May 15, 1999
The number of trees killed now is up to 140,000.
The Florida Legislature has approved an additional $17.7 million (matched by the Feds) for a total of $35 million more to "fight" canker.
Most of the money will be spent to hire more inspectors. Today, the quarantine area covers 507 square miles containing an estimated 5 million citrus trees.
Inspectors were only able to re-visit citrus sites every 3-6 months. With the new hires on board, inspectors will be coming to your property every 45-60 days. If they find an infected tree, they will kill and remove your trees. You are then not allowed to re-plant citrus in the same location.
Homeowners filed a class action lawsuit to recover money for the lost trees. The lawsuit failed. However, the Legislature has authorized $3 million in their "Shade Dade" program.
The bottom line is you could receive a $100 credit to buy a non-citrus tree from Wal-Mart (like THEY need the money). I wonder why Master Gardener wasn't offered the opportunity to sell trees at $100 each. Politics? Naaaaaaaaaaahhh.
Update: January, 2000
The Miami Herald updated the canker wars story. Now Florida has killed over 180,000 citrus trees in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. These are residential trees as well as citrus in commercial groves. "The disease thrives in 551 of 581 inspected acres." according to State officials. Most of this activity is in Miami-Dade but moving into Broward.
There are an estimated 3.5 million citrus trees in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. If the state continues its kill tactics, there may be ZERO dooryard citrus trees left in South Florida. Palm Beach County to the north of Broward is not suspected to have canker --- yet.
Expansion of KILL zones
Right now if an infected tree is found, it is removed and burned plus ALL other citrus trees within 125 feet are destroyed as well. However, a new proposal would expand the kill zone to 1,900 feet. That's over 1/3 of a mile or approximately 30-40 homes in all directions.
Be aware that canker is an incurable disease. There is no harm to humans or animals only affecting the appearance of fruit and in some cases harming or killing the tree. In spreading the canker, the state says "the wind is the propellant, the rain is the vehicle." With the rainy season coming soon, there is no new good news. All the news is worse than before.
"If the epidemic is not stopped in South Florida, the state's entire $8.5 billion citrus industry could be endangered." There are now over 700 people inspecting, documenting and removing citrus trees in our area. Soon, they expect the number of people involved to double to 1,400.
Want to turn in your citrus trees to the inspectors and have them come over to your home? Call the "help" line at 800-850-3781.
If you want dooryard fruit, you had better plan on citrus alternatives.
Update: February 12, 2000
Citrus Canker Eradication Program Steps Up Efforts
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today a new $100 million initiative to wipe our citrus canker in South Florida within the next 12 months. Spending $100 million may seem like a lot, but at stake is Florida's statewide $8.5 billion citrus industry. "The economy of the state of Florida is in jeopardy if we allow this devastating disease to take over" he said.
What is happening is the canker is winning - spreading faster than the state can handle containment. Canker has also been found recently in areas of Collier, Manatee, Hendry and Hillsborough counties.
Killing citrus trees to "save" our citrus trees seems illogical. On the other hand, since we "know" canker is spreading faster than the Citrus Canker Eradication Program can identify and remove trees, why waste time identifying trees at all?
The lime growers in Miami-Dade are amenable having already lost almost half their trees. It is these growers who have lost the most who have kept the heat on the state to do something more effective than watch canker spread further..
Why not declare all citrus in South Florida "infected" and door-to-door remove and burn them all ASAP?
It seems total destruction of all our citrus is inevitable anyhow, so why dawdle?
Save the rest of the state as fast as possible. Don't take any more risks. It's already been over 5 years of inadequate "action" and we here blame the state. Get on the fast train and finish this job now.
Are you on the Web, Jeb?
Update: March 5, 2000
Quarantines are now in effect in six Florida counties. Over 1/3 of Florida's commercial lime groves have already been destroyed. The main fear is canker will continue to spread causing pressure on Florida's $8.5 billion citrus industry and over 100,000 jobs associated with citrus.
Florida is the #2 producer in the world for citrus behind Brazil.
The $110 million plan now is to create a buffer zone south of Palm Beach County and move south. "We've found that we were too conservative in the past. Citrus canker is winning and we can't let that happen." said Liz Compton of Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Crawford's office.
In the early part of this century, canker also attacked. Over the next 20 years, over 3.2 million citrus trees were destroyed in that eradication effort.
With the kill zone now 1,900 feet, few trees will be spared. If any citrus tree is confirmed or suspected of having canker, every other tree in a 1,900 foot circle will also be destroyed.
Update: March 28, 2000
A 95-year-old Tamarac (Broward County) man was arrested yesterday after brandishing an unloaded rifle at a police officer.
Florida Department of Agriculture canker personnel were uninvited guests and about to remove and destroy the fourth and final citrus tree (a grapefruit) from the man's yard. Homeowner Nelson Edwards refused access.
Canker inspector David Benner threatened Mr. Edwards with a lawsuit for standing in the way of workers. Police were called in so Edwards got his rifle and was immediately arrested. He was later released on $5,000 bail charged with aggravated assault with a firearm on a police officer.
The State cut down his last tree.
It seems excessively hostile to arrest a 95-year-old when he likely was of no real threat to anyone. One neighbor commented "I hope this doesn't kill him."
Update: April 15, 2000
Florida asks homeowners to cooperate as follows:
Lawn maintenance companies must decontaminate personnel and equipment when arriving at and departing homeowner's properties.
Update: April 27, 2000
State Offers Canker Vouchers
If you have had one or more citrus trees destroyed in the canker war, you will soon be entitled to a $100.00 voucher from the State of Florida. Money comes from $7 million from the the Feds plus $3 million from the state.
The program called "Shade Florida" is expected to start June or July with letters mailed to affected homeowners. There will be paperwork, but officials say you will get $100 per property (not per tree) and YOU MUST spend the voucher at Wal-Mart !!! Both Home Depot and K-Mart were rejected vendors, the state saying these firms could not adequately guarantee voucher dollars would be spent exclusively on garden items.
The state is not requiring homeowners to spend voucher dollars on trees, which seems contrary to logic in a program called "Shade Florida" post tree destructions. You could purchase non-trees such as shrubs and other garden supplies, but not citrus.
As you might imagine, many local maw-and-paw retail nurseries are livid with the state's decision. Nursery owners say they can easily file necessary papers with the state (bureaucrats gotta have lots of paperwork !!!) and can do just as good a job overall as Wal-Mart. It appears the entire basis for the Wal-Mart decision is paperwork. With 18 South Florida stores, the state claims Wal-Mart is the ONLY entity qualified to fulfill their program.
The vouchers will be plastic (another thoughtful environmental move by the Department of Agriculture). Alan Edwards, chief of finance and accounting for the Florida Department of Agriculture said the chief reasons in selecting Wal-Mart were:
Think about that compared to shopping at your favorite local retail nursery. Could you buy a bag of charcoal there? Or a screwdriver or a box of soap? No, yet the state says Wal-Mart can handle execution of the "Shade Florida" reforestation program.
We are personally outraged by this Wal-Mart decision.
Who is better equipped than a nursery professional (who earns his/her living in tropical plants) to advise a homeowner on what plant materials are best for their landscape. lifestyle and environment?
This is the "HMO For All" mentality from bureaucrats who want to control and herd people and make business alliances in the process. This plan is just plain 100% stinkin' pure BULLSHIT.
Update: June 1, 2000
The state is hiring three contractors to help cut down, grind and remove citrus trees. About 1,700 people are now working to identify and destroy infected trees and all other citrus trees within the 1,900 foot 'kill zone' circle around any infected tree.
The state expects the three contractors to cut down and remove a total of about 1,000,000 trees. Add that number to the 500,000+ already destroyed and the total is about one half of all citrus trees in South Florida.
According to the state, an average of about $100 per tree is the cost of the removal.
Update: July 21, 2000
The count is now 780,000 trees destroyed, mostly in Dade and Broward counties. Finally, $100 vouchers will begin going out in the mail at the end of the month, five years since canker was first detected.
It seems reasonable that the state (Bob Crawford) has a record of coming to your property with the chain saws and trucks to remove your trees. You must, however, "apply" to be included if you have sustained the loss of one or more citrus trees on your residential property.
Call them right now. Call (800) 850-3781 between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM to get on the list to get your $100. They will then send you a form to fill in and later you are suppossed to get your voucher.
Use your voucher wisely. Here's an idea:
You will save time and frustration by calling (today) the Garden Department Manager of your nearest Wal-Mart store. Call Wal-Mart since this is the ONLY place you can redeem your voucher. We suggest you ask which tropical fruit trees are currently in stock as replacements for your loss and which other trees they can order for you.
Don't get palms, shrubs or flowers or mulch. You and the environment of South Florida desperately needs tree canopy for 10,000 reasons. Insist Wal-Mart get you what you want, even if it's not in their "normal" stock. They have claimed in press releases they will do that.
Update: September 6, 2000
September 6, 2000 is among the saddest days in South Florida history. Citrus Canker is a Page-1 story again saying the disease has now cost taxpayers and citrus growers over $129 million and counting. The spending pace is currently about $8 million per month.
The tragedy, however, is not the money. We called and spoke with business writer Joseph Mann at the Sun-Sentinel to confirm his unbelievable words,
"Over the next year, plans call for aggressive cutting in Broward and Miami-Dade that will eliminate almost all citrus trees in the two counties."
That's right, almost ALL our citrus trees.
If you do care about the money, the newest estimate is that $250 million will be spent before its all over.
It already sounds like it's all over, doesn't it? Right now the kill rate is about 4,500 trees a day. If they speed up a little, every citrus tree in South Florida will be dead, ground up and buried in the dump by this time next year.
Update: June 19, 2002
Finally, Florida's beleaguered tax paying land-owning citrus-growing citizens have a foothold against the "Kill 'Em All" bureaucrats from Tallahassee who want to finish the destruction of all private citrus tree life in South Florida.
To date, over 2 million trees have already been destroyed. That is about one tree per family in all of South Florida.
Broward County Circuit Judge J. Leonard Fleet has ruled that 10,000 search warrants issued to the Department of Agriculture failed to meet constitutional standards (both state and federal) for searches of private property.
The Florida Legislature had rammed through a new "law" that allowed for county wide search warrants of properties. Two judges signed one warrant each then thousands of other private property addresses were attached allowing "officials" to enter your private property backed by armed police escorts (who would immediately arrest you if you did not comply).
Judge Fleet ruled blanket electronic signatures of judges were insufficient
Judges are apparently too busy to sign warrents individually. Who cares if there is no probable cause? Who cares if mistakes were made in "the list."? Who cares that the Constitution specifically prohibits this type of searching?
Fleet said the state must show an individual "probable cause" for each property rather than attaching a long list of addresses to a single warrant application. (This would then require the Department of Agriculture to have to state exactly "why" each property requires a search, and, we hope, exactly the scientific reasoning and evidence such a conculsion is proper)
Judge Fleet also said the Department of Agriculture must first ask the owner's permission to go onto private property and seek a search warrant only if permission is refused.
"All I'm doing is being a strict constructionist of the Constitution. I will not be party to a situation in which an alleged inspector can walk into a yard that has a fence where children of tender years are playing and allow an imposter to scope out a house with the intent of committing a robbery..."
We couldn't agree more.
Thank you Judge Fleet for not letting the state roll over its citizens and for the specific purpose of destroying private property along with our rights.
We saw one (more) intelligent concept about this issue. Numerous citizens have suggested that if the state is right about the 1,900 foot rule (read above updates for full info) why not simply cut a 1,900 swath from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and destroy 100% of the citrus tree therein? Since 1,900 feet is the "magic number" clearly, by the expert testimony of the state, all canker spreading would be halted (from going north).
We would further add this plan allows all us canker-growing tax-paying dippled chad-voting citizens in South Florida to have our citrus in South Florida and the "industry" to have the rest of the state to themselves and their "clean" fruit
On June 9, 2002 Michael Mayo of the Sun-Sentinel wrote "There's a tree killer among us, and it ain't citrus canker."
In the name of saving citrus tree, state Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson can't seem to destroy them fast enough.
The last two commissioners, Bronson and Crawford, have spearheaded the chainsaw massacre. Crawford now has a high-paying job with the citrus industry (Any wonder people are suspicious?)
So what's wrong with the canker program? Just about everything.
The logic is specious, the science seems dubious and the constitutional ramifications are chilling. On top of that, the arrogance displayed by Bronson and the bureaucrats is galling"
That said, Thursday's June 20, 2002 editorial page of the Sun-Sentinel (which has backed the state 2,000,000% in these proceedings from day one) now wants to bypass all lower courts and set the situation for ruling by the State Supreme Court. (Got some in-your-pocket friends up there too, Sun-Sentinel?)
Therein, only minor mention is given to the constitutional aspect of this case. These newspaper thugs want the killing to resume ASAP and don't want courts with right-thinking judges like The Honorable J. Leonard Fleet to get in the way of mass destruction of private property, entrenchment of the citrus industry, higher prices for citrus at our stores and the grossly unlawful confiscation of citizen rights clearly protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Mr. Peter Harsany is a doctor in agricultural economics. Here’s what he had to say in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper February 17, 2003, page 29A
The most frequently asserted argument defending the citrus canker eradication program is to claim it is based on science. Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson referred several times to the so-called “Gottwald Report,” trying to justify the protocol to eradicate all citrus trees in a radius of 1,900 feet from an infected tree, calling it scientific proof.
A single experiment, if not repeated and confirmed by other scientists, is not scientific proof. The fact is the Gottwald’s experiment did not recommend eradication and he never suggested it. The goal of the experiment was to search for the distance of the spread of canker infection. The scientists participating in this research, Dr. Tim Gottwald and his co-authors examined only how far canker bacteria travels before it falls to the ground. It has little importance that critics found several errors in his experiment and that “peers” approved only the paper and not the experiment itself.
That Gottwald did not consider his experiment proof for the 1,900-foot scenario (which has been invented by a group in the Department of Agriculture with claims about Gottwald’s findings) is documented by quoting him:
It has been researched by Dr. Chester H. Himel and other scientists that the canker bacterium has a beneficial effect on the tree. Quoting Himel: “The citrus canker is inherently innocuous. It does cause blemishes on fruit but it also stimulates immune responses in citrus trees, making them more resistant to many stress factors. Thus, on balance, the citrus canker bacterium, when controlled, is a good bacterium, not the devastating threat pictured by the citrus power structure. The bacterium has no effect on the yield, or quality of citrus grown for juice, which constitutes more than 90% of Florida’s citrus production.”
Quoting Professor Heinz K. Wutscher: “Citrus canker is a disease no more serious than a dozen other citrus diseases and….Brazil, after 60 years with canker, now produces 10 times as much citrus as when the disease was introduced.”
There is no scientific evidence to justify eradication. And no justification exists that individual homeowners should suffer to benefit any interest groups, especially when the reasoning for it is false.
No government, federal or state, has the right to squander taxpayers’ money patronizing a group of producers to save them the costs of prevention against a plant disease.
If a sector of producers is not viable to be competitive on the export market, the government may subsidize them to a certain extent for the sake of the economy. But to do so at the expense of individual homeowners, trampling on their constitutional rights and causing them immense emotional damage, is unforgivable.
It is especially unforgivable as the entire program is useless.
Update: July 19, 2003
Judge J. Leonard Fleet has again intervened in the citrus canker battles. Yesterday he ordered that the state has used flawed laboratory practices and inaccurate field measurements in deciding which trees should be destroyed. The judge's decision once again waylays the state's efforts to resume slaughter of privately owned residential citrus trees in South Florida.
In the judge's order, he found scientific errors in the state's methods including:
Judge Fleet wrote in part in his 16-page order, "There presently exists an unacceptable risk of completely unnecessary destruction of benign private property, which risk directly results from the Department's failure to observe ordinary diligence and to comply with clear statutory mandates."
On October 7, 2003, the Florida Supreme Court (remember dimpled chads? ...same bunch) will hear oral arguments on a constitutional challenge of the eradication program. Thereafter, it is likely to take several more months for a decision.
Update: February 12, 2004
The battle is over. Millions of remaining citrus trees in Florida are re-scheduled for mass graves. The Florida Department of Agriculture has won a unanimous 6-0 Florida Supreme Court decision ruling that allows the Department of Agriculture to kill as many trees as they wish.
Eradication official puke Mark Fagan is all excited to re-start the slaughter. Fagan is hiring workers again and apparently chain saws will start roaring as fast as he can muster his killer crews. Canker is said to have been confirmed in 12 Florida counties to date so the destruction and death toll will reach millions of families
If you are not aware, the new 34-nation FTAA trade agreement (Free Trade Area of the Americas) being negotiated to take in most of the rest of South America (a la NAFTA with Mexico and Canada) would theoretically allow Brazil tax free access to the USA market
If that happens, the Florida juice industry will be destroyed by substantially lower prices (for juice). So why kill millions more trees at a price of hundreds of millions of dollars if the marketplace will handle that without cost?
Worse for Florida tax payers (and lots of Federal money as well) is the final challenge to the Department of Agriculture. It seems Florida residents will lose either way
The reason is the final challenge to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court will be regarding fair compensation to land owners who have had their citrus trees destroyed. Basically, you currently get a $100 voucher (to buy plants) for the first tree destroyed plus $55.00 cash money for each additional citrus tree destroyed
If you had five citrus destroyed, you would receive a total of $320. But what is the true fair value of, say, a 10 or 15 year old citrus tree? Planted, it would be way more than $300
And what about the fruit lost, this year, and for years to come? Much citrus is priced at grocery stores at approximately 50 cents a piece. If you have a tree that produces 300 fruit, that would be $150 you lost. If you have 5 trees, that's $750 for one year's loss alone. In 10 years, you have lost at least $7,500
You can imagine if the Supreme Court rules that land owners be fully compensated for both the value of their trees and the value of fruit lost over time, we are talking billions of dollars
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in part of the decision, "The schedule established by the Legislature sets a floor but does not determine the amount of compensation. When the State destroys private property, the State is obligated to pay just and fair compensation as determined in a court of law. Moreover, the statement that compensation is subject to availability of appropriated funds does not relieve the State from its responsibility to provide full and just compensation."
As you see, none of this can be worth the calamity
June 26, 2005, the Sun-Sentinel reports:
Canker Fight Looking Fruitless
Allegedly in 1995 the first case of Citrus Canker was found on a grapefruit in Miami-Dade county. By the end of 1995, canker was "confirmed" in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties. With the state's eradication program in action starting in 2000, 7 counties were infested. The results of that "program" is that now in 2005, 22 counties have the disease
Over 4,000,000 million citrus trees have been killed (so far) and the spread runs unabated at a cost of over $500,000,000
Where will this end? Probably another $500,000,000 down the drain and the probable death of every citrus tree in Florida. Thank you government for all your hard work, YOU IDIOTS !!!!!!!
But was this so hard to see coming? There has never been any proof whatsoever (and almost 100% contrary evidence) that killing and more killing and removal does not stop canker. Nothing stops canker; that is the evidence. Totally harmless to humans and fruit quality, I'd rather have my trees back ...how about you?
August 25, 2005, the Sun-Sentinel reports (via Orlando Sentinel):
$650 million later, citrus canker marches on
"State officials (don't you love that word "officials") say they have no yardstick to determine when - and if - they should abandon the attempt to wipe out citrus canker despite spending 10 years and about $650 million in what has, so far, been a losing battle"
The article indicates perhaps one billion dollars will be spent. Typical of government, the Florida Department of Agriculture states "We're just going to continue to push forward. We think eradication is possible if we get the resources."
sure, have another billion !!!
Newest efforts call for the destruction of 300 acres a day, three times the usual pace of killing.
Scientists says once canker has spread past 5% of the state's citrus acreage, eradication will be impossible (disease moves faster than control efforts). Duhhhhhhhhh ...that happened many years and many millions of dollars ago.
January 12, 2006, the Sun-Sentinel reports (via Orlando Sentinel):
$800 million later, the citrus canker war is over and citrus canker has won ...the situation is conveniently blamed on 4 hurricanes and citizen legal delays
In a long anticipated announcement, the Feds have withdrawn further financial assistance to Florida (via a letter from USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner) for mechanical efforts to kill off citrus canker disease (by destroying all allegedly infected trees ...they were not tested) as well as every other tree within 1,900 feet of any infected tree)
The claim for this new posture is that 4 hurricanes (2+2, 2004 and 2005) straight through major South Florida growing areas has spread the canker far and wide over most of the rest of the state. An additional 200,00 acres (seems way too small) are now affected. Destroying trees to save trees is no longer viable (of course, sensible folks have known that the "plan" was a disaster all along)
If you still have a citrus tree (we don't) the good news is "infected trees will continue to be cut down in groves and backyards, but those trees within a 1,900-foot radius no longer will be felled."
How do you feel blowing off $800,000,000.00 for nothing?
Most of the money was Federal $$$ so everybody in the USA paid
now get this line in the paper...
"State agricultural officials lament that they were within three weeks of eradicating citrus canker after it spread north from Miami-Dade County through Broward and into southern Palm Beach County. Then a lawsuit put a temporary stop to cutting November 2000 (see info above on this page). Lawsuits repeatedly stalled the cutting until the Florida Supreme Court upheld the program as constitutional in February 2004"
Ohhhhh, so it's the hurricanes and the people losing their trees arbitrarily that messed things up ....NOT "the officials" ehhhh ?
Also, if "the officials" are so smart and capable, why didn't they stop canker while it was confined to Miami-Dade County?
Plus, the pot of money that was compensating home owners ($100) for destroyed trees is now empty. You now get NOTHING after they destroy your property
The courts send idiots and thieves in business (Enron, Tyco, Martha Stewart, etc) to JAIL for screwing up like this, but if you work for government, there is no punishment ...only the people pay, only the people have their property destroyed, only the people are given nothing in return ...that's government
Canker Info Helpline 800-850-3781
The program's website is also available here
Citizens protest site is here