A fight that must be won

HARLINGEN — Federal officials are bumping up research dollars to fight citrus greening disease.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $22 million would be available for research into combating the incurable disease that attacks citrus trees.

Citrus greening was discovered in Texas in 2012, but has been widespread in Florida since 2005.

In Texas, two quarantine areas have been designated by the state Department of Agriculture. One in the Rio Grande Valley’s Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties, the other in the Houston area covering Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery counties.

In all, 15 states and U.S. territories now have designated quarantine areas.

“Thanks to the continued, coordinated efforts between growers, researchers and state and federal government, we are getting closer every day to ending this threat,” Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “The funding announced will help us continue to preserve thousands of jobs for citrus producers and workers, along with significant revenue from citrus sales.”

The disease is caused by a bacteria spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. It causes fruit of an infected tree to shrivel and become bitter-tasting. Within five years, the disease kills the tree.

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