Florida Citrus Industry catches big break with appeals court decision to block harmful pesticide

Orange Farm – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by SchnepfDesign

Florida citrus growers and farmers received pleasing news after an appeals court ruling overturned federal approval of a controversial pesticide that industry experts and supporters believe will aid the fight against a crop disease that has ravaged the citrus community in the state. 

For years, the Sunshine State has been a leading citrus producer and exporter in the United States, with roughly 90 percent of all orange juice supply and 70 percent of all citrus products coming from the state. 

This week’s decision to overturn the federal ruling on the use of aldicarb on citrus plants comes amid state and federal battles over the potential damaging properties of the pesticide.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in the farmers’ favor to protect the crops against the potentially damaging pesticide.

The appeal comes five months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of aldicarb in the production of oranges and grapefruit. Shortly after, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services denied an application to use aldicarb, creating the state challenge against AdLogic Chemical, LLC., according to The News Service of Florida. 

After the appeal decision was announced Tuesday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who recently announced her bid to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis in next year’s gubernatorial race, released a statement saying, “I remain fully committed to working with Florida’s proud citrus growers to support solutions for our state’s signature crop without risking human, animal and environmental health.”

However, other businesses in the industry have backed the use of aldicarb and believe the disease affecting the citrus crops comes from citrus greening via insects.

“Florida’s citrus sector stands at the deadly brink. (The EPA’s) conditional registration of aldicarb is a scientifically valid means of saving much of what remains of Florida’s citrus production,” said a friend-of-the-court brief filed in April by Florida Citrus Mutual and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. 

After the ruling was determined, AgLogic released a statement highlighting their disappointment: 

Full statement from AgLogic Chemical, LLC

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s ruling which vacated EPA’s recent registration of Aldicarb, a product that had for years, safely provided critical pest control to Florida’s citrus industry. The Court’s decision centered on procedural Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance issues and did not disagree with EPA’s registration decision on any other grounds. Virtually all pesticides in Florida have the same ESA issue, yet our product was singled out. Unfortunately, this means that the threatened citrus industry may not have this critical tool to fight the disease that is devastating their crops.

“AgLogic sought to reregister Aldicarb for use on citrus, at the suggestion of the EPA, and the previous encouragement of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), together with strong support of the threatened Florida citrus industry. AgLogic’s federal registration included a comprehensive stewardship program to train and educate users, applicators, and farmworkers to safely use the product, and to protect the environment. Aldicarb had been used routinely for several decades with no observed adverse effects reported on endangered species in citrus groves in the past, and Aldicarb is currently approved for use in Florida on cotton and peanuts.

“While we consider next steps, we are committed to working proactively with EPA, FDACS, and the iconic citrus industry on a resolution that will bring relief to Florida citrus producers, while protecting users and the environment. Our top priority is safeguarding the livelihoods of Florida’s farmers, their families, and communities while providing safe and effective products.”

In the end, Florida farmers and citrus growers came out winning but will certainly have eyes on them to see if citrus growth can ramp up to where it used to be. 

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Original story can be found at The News Service of Florida*