I am pleased to announce that Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services director Nick Condos has been assigned to lead the department’s Citrus Disease and Pest Prevention Program, as its interim director. During his 23 years with CDFA, Nick has demonstrated an excellent combination of management skills and experience with growers; and he has established relationships with colleagues throughout industry, the research community and government.
Given the incremental spread of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the disease it spreads, huanglongbing (HLB), over the last several years, the Citrus Disease and Pest Prevention Program has reached a scope and complexity that I believe will be best served by the placement of Nick in this new leadership role, with the full and continued support of CDFA and the Office of the Secretary.
The Program, funded through industry assessments and state and federal allocations, guides efforts to limit spread of HLB and the ACP, which can spread the disease from tree to tree as it feeds. Growers reaffirmed their support for the continuation of this program at a series of hearings earlier this year.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and citrus growers across the state have worked together to prepare-for and respond to this tremendous threat for many years, prior to the first detections of the ACP in California in 2008. The disease is fatal to citrus trees and has no cure, so the solution must come from research – research that is already well underway, thanks to foresight and funding from growers and our state and federal leaders. To allow ample time for that research, CDFA sets traps to track the pest’s movement, treats trees in infested areas to protect them, and removes trees as soon as HLB is found. These response efforts and additional quarantine measures have succeeded in slowing the spread and containing the disease to a handful of communities in Southern California. HLB has been detected in approximately 70 trees in in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties; all of those trees have been removed.
The assistant director of Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services, Stephen Brown, will step into the role of Interim Director.