$52 million released to affected homeowners
Florida’s other and often-forgotten natural calamity – citrus canker – has been resolved, at least from the perspective of 84,000 homeowners who had diseased trees in their yards. After a delay of as long as 18 years in some cases, the state has reimbursed those homeowners for destroying their trees in a failed effort to eliminate the disease.
The $52 million in checks for amounts ranging from less than $100 to several thousand dollars were sent to those homeowners in Broward and Palm Beach counties as final compensation for orange, grapefruit, lime and tangerine trees that state officials cut-down to prevent the spread to commercial citrus groves.
In 2000, the state ordered the destruction of even healthy citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree, with or without the owner’s permission. The bacterial disease blemishes the fruit and causes it to drop prematurely, but the fruit can still be squeezed for juice. In the end, the state’s eradication efforts didn’t work. Canker continued to spread – mostly by the wind.
Despite winning various class action lawsuits against the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs over the years for taking their property without just compensation, the state refused to pay until the legislature last year appropriated the settlement monies. There’s still another $60 million to be appropriated to compensate homeowners in Orange and Lee counties with lawsuits.
Agricultural research continues in hopes of finding an effective cure to the canker which reduced Florida’s total crop by more than 50% over the past decade. Newly developed canker-resistant trees are showing promise in the agricultural experimentation stations.