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US Representative Proposes New Bill to Block Chinese Citrus Imports

July 01, 2020

According to a report by United Press International, a bill to ban the import of all citrus fruits from China to the U.S. has recently gained bipartisan support in Florida. The bill’s sponsor, Republican representative Greg Steube, has dubbed it the “U.S. Citrus Protection Act.”

The bill is in response to a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to authorize limited Chinese citrus imports from April 14, after several years of consideration. Prior to the decision, the U.S. did not allow citrus imports from China.

In April, the USDA announced that five Chinese citrus varieties had been approved for import under the new U.S.–China trade agreement, namely, pomelos, Nanfeng honey mandarins, ponkan tangerines, sweet oranges and satsuma mandarins. Some of these varieties are grown in limited volumes in the U.S. as specialty crops.

“Given that our growers have so many other challenges right now — competition from Brazil, citrus greening and other diseases — it’s obvious to me that adding Chinese imports is going to be very problematic,” said Steube.

To date, Florida citrus growers have invested several billion dollars in fighting citrus greening. This disease has decimated many Florida citrus groves, reducing their area from 679,000 acres in 2004 to 387,100 acres in 2019.

Steube said that he had listened to the input of local growers and members of the Florida Farm Bureau when crafting the bill. Florida citrus growers expressed concern about the decision to authorize Chinese citrus imports amid the difficult economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the new trade negotiations, China requested authorization for all citrus varieties, with the guarantee that growers would provide disinfected, pest-free fruit. However, the USDA only authorized the five aforementioned varieties. The USDA predicts that Chinese citrus fruit will only be imported in small quantities, as China has many other global export markets.

Steube also stated that he intends to add South Africa to the bill’s import ban, as South Africa has unique citrus pests that are not present in the U.S.

Two other Florida legislators, Republican Bill Posey and Democrat Darren Soto, also expressed support for the bill.

“American citrus was devastated by citrus greening and only now has begun to recover,” said Soto. “I support the Citrus Protection Act to prevent these types of invasive diseases from again attacking local groves in Central Florida and beyond.”

Image: Pixabay

This article was translated and adapted from Chinese. Read the original article.

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