The federal Tree Assistance Program under the Farm Bill has been around for years, providing financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers for crops damaged by natural disasters.
Citrus greening has been devastating Florida growers since its arrival in 2005. The deadly and incurable disease has been particularly harmful to the state's valuable orange crop. The Sunshine State has lost 30 percent of its commercial citrus acreage in the past nine years.
Curiously, though, only this week did U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announce TAP is being expanded to include citrus greening in Florida, which comprises 63 percent of the nation's citrus production and is far and away the most impacted by greening.
This is truly a natural disaster -- of epic proportions.
Now, growers with operations that average $900,000 or less in gross income are eligible for up to $125,000 in federal assistance. Qualifying losses must have occurred after September 2011.
Vilsack estimated around 4,500 grove owners could be eligible, a big number. The assistance will go a long way toward the replanting of dead trees.
With the federal government finally kicking in millions this year to help fund research into greening, adding to Florida's years-long funding, maybe a cure or vaccine can be found soon for this insidious bacteria.