USDA Encourages Public to Celebrate the Red, White, Blue and Orange

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Keep the lemonade flowing this Fourth of July – 'Save Our Citrus' raises awareness of citrus diseases

"Summer is just not the same without citrus,” says Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the Save Our Citrus program. “With multiple diseases affecting our citrus our access to U.S.-grown citrus is under serious threat, and with it, many of the foods we enjoy."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages the public to make this Fourth of July a celebration of citrus’ role in the holiday’s food and culture—while also raising awareness of the serious threat that diseases like citrus greening pose to U.S. citrus.

From the lemons we use to make lemonade to the limes we make key lime pie with, citrus is at the center of our summer celebrations. The stars and stripes and fireworks would not be the same without lemon chiffon cake, fish with lemon, orange sorbet, lemon-garlic chicken and avocado lime salsa. And, as the temperatures rise, kids across American set up makeshift lemonade stands as a favorite way to earn a little spending money.

“Summer is just not the same without citrus,” says Larry Hawkins, APHIS spokesman for the Save Our Citrus program. “With multiple diseases affecting our citrus and the recent confirmation of citrus greening disease in California, our access to U.S.-grown citrus is under serious threat, and with it, many of the foods and traditions we enjoy.”

The U.S. citrus crop, valued at nearly $3 billion by USDA, currently faces a threat from four significant citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, sweet orange scab, and citrus black spot. Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB, is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world. Once a tree is infected, there is no known cure. Some citrus producing states like California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, have areas under quarantine for citrus greening disease. Named for the green, misshapen fruit and bitter taste it produces, citrus greening disease has now ruined millions of citrus plants in the southeastern United States.

“As summer picnic-goers enjoy iced tea with lemon, I encourage them to think about the role of citrus and, more importantly, be sure not to move citrus or citrus plants from areas that are under quarantine.” says Hawkins.

To learn more about the USDA’s Save Our Citrus program or to report suspected citrus disease, visit http://www.saveourcitrus.org. Citizens can assist in Save Our Citrus efforts by observing quarantine restrictions and refraining from taking or sending citrus fruit, trees, leaves or any part of their trees away from where they are grown. A new detection tool, the Save Our Citrus free iPhone app, enables residents to identify and report citrus diseases.

About Save Our Citrus: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently launched an updated Save Our Citrus program. Its goal is to inform the nation about the problem and empower regular people to take easy steps that will make a lasting difference in the fight against citrus disease. The website includes extensive information about each citrus disease, as well as map detailing affected areas, citrus safety tips, links to additional resources, and information about the need to quarantine certain fruit and plants. To learn more about the Save Our Citrus program, visit http://www.saveourcitrus.org.

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