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From exotic pests to fungal disease, Florida growers Cuban imports could harm healthy crops

From exotic pests to fungal disease, Florida growers Cuban imports
could harm healthy crops
Author: Associated Press
Published On: May 02 2015 04:52:13 PM EDT

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. –
Some of Florida’s agriculture experts say normalizing relations with
Cuba could threaten the state’s citrus and vegetable crops.

The Lakeland Ledger reported on Saturday that Florida growers fear lax
inspections at U.S. Department of Agriculture border checkpoints will
allow the importation of pests and fungal disease that would harm
Florida crops.

Members of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association are schedule to
discuss the issue at a meeting this month.

Adam Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, has sent letters to
the state’s congressional delegation opposing plans to end the Cuban
trade embargo.

Gov. Rick Scott also cited concerns about invasive pests in his
statement opposing any lifting of the trade embargo.

Agriculture experts say they are concerned about the bacterial diseases
citrus greening and citrus canker. They are also concerned about fungal
diseases including citrus black spot and laurel wilt.

“If you look at the kind of plant pest and diseases we’re fighting in
the state, it may leave some people to believe (the USDA) is not doing a
very good job,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit and
Vegetable Association, the trade group for most non-citrus crops in the
state. “We’re a magnet for pests and disease. It’s a major concern.”

Florida growers say they also have concerns about increased competition
from Cuban for agricultural products.

“Over time, I have to believe Cuba’s capacity to produce winter
vegetables presents a serious competitive challenge,” Stuart said.

Bill Messina, an agricultural economist at the Gainesville campus, said
Cuba could become a competitor in winter vegetable markets if lifting
the trade embargo results in significant investments from outside the
country in that sector.

“Whenever Cuba opens up, I think there is a chance of a fundamental
restructuring of the winter fresh vegetable market in the United
States,” he said. “Foreign investment in Cuba could change that very
quickly.”

Source: From exotic pests to fungal disease, Florida growers Cuban
imports could harm healthy crops | News – Home –
http://www.local10.com/news/from-exotic-pests-to-fungal-disease-florida-growers-cuban-imports-could-harm-healthy-crops/32773454

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