USDA Regulations Toughens Harvest in Citrus Groves
HARLINGEN – A Rio Grande Valley grower said he’s struggling to turn a profit after his grove was placed in a Mexican fruit fly quarantine zone.
USDA lifted all fruit fly quarantine zones in Hidalgo County last year. However, several areas in Cameron and Willacy County have expanded.
Citrus grower Dale Murden said he’s in the least place a grower wants to be: in the middle of harvest.
“It’s tough to be a farmer right now. It absolutely is, but it’s what we do. We feed the world and we think we do a very good job of it,” he said.
Dale Murden’s Grove sits inside a Mexican fruit fly quarantine zone outlined by the USDA. He said the classification comes with new regulations.
“I had to start spraying in October, prior to harvest. Every 10 days since. And I will have to continue that spray to stay in compliance with the USDA regulations until I have all the fruit harvested which for me might be March, April,” he said.
Murden said he has to spend an extra $150 per acre to spray. To make matters worse, other groves in the quarantine zone are not allowed to harvest their fruit at all.
“He’s got all that fruit hanging on his tree that he can’t harvest. So it means no income and it’s a bad deal,” he said. “(It) seems like it’s a never ending battle, and we are really struggling for answers right now.”
Murden said he doesn’t expect for the quarantine zones to expire anytime soon.
Citrus harvest lasts from fall to the end of spring. Once the fruit has been harvested, it makes it tougher for the Mexican fruit fly to spread.