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USDA to Spend $31.5M to Fight Disease Ravaging Citrus Crops

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced a total of $31.5 million in funding to combat huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease, which has threatened to devastate Florida's $9 billion citrus industry.

As many as 70 percent of Florida’s citrus trees are believed to be infected by greening, which is caused by bacteria deposited on trees by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.

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"The citrus industry and the thousands of jobs it supports are depending on groundbreaking research to neutralize this threat," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

So far, the industry has been fighting a losing battle by removing infected trees to save the disease-free plants.

Last week, scientists from the University of Florida said that a chemical used to treat gout in humans had the potential for slowing the spread of the disease, although it could take some time for it to receive federal approval, even if it works.