Thursday, November 18, 2004
That's Just Wrong: Canker
When you run a nursery, it doesn't take much to know when a problem is in full bloom. For one local business owner, watching citrus sales turn sour is more than he can stomach. But worst of all, he says the way the state of Florida treated him is just wrong.
WSVN-- Steve Hujber has definitely built roots in the nursery business.
He can name any type of rose or any type of mango just by looking at it. But his real specialty used to be citrus trees, which thrived in his Redlands nursery business.
Steve Hujber/Citrus owner:"When people see a containerized grapefruit tree with a dozen fruit hanging on it, it's very impressive."
Unfortunately, what Steve sees today doesn't impress him very much. About four years ago, his business took a major hit when canker spread to Miami-dade County.
When the state's eradication team inspected his fruit, 13 of his trees tested positive, but more than 3-thousand were exposed and destroyed. Making matters worse, another thousand are still under quarantine -- which he cannot sell or even give away.
Steve:"We tried to substitute with something else to make up for it which we did not quite accomplish."
Steve estimates he lost 200-thousand dollars in citrus plants. But like citrus grove and homeowners, he thought the government would pay for his losses.
Steve:"I tried from a local, state, federal level. I'm told there is no fund for nurseries."
And Steve says that's just wrong.
Steve:"I understand if they had to destroy it, I understand if it's a dangerous disease and they had to eradicate it, but not to pay compensation, it's just unthinkable to me."
Under Florida's citrus canker eradication program, homeowners received $55 dollars a tree.
Grove owners about 26 dollars a tree. But while the law covers those two groups, nursery owners haven't seen a penny... That is until now.
Tyrone Kemp/USDA, Citrus Canker Eradication Program:"Congress has allocated a half million dollars as compensation to those nurseries that have been affected by citrus canker."
After a lot of lobbying by citrus nursery owners, the U.S. Legislature recently set aside 500-thousand dollars. The problem now -- is trying to divide the money...
Tyrone:"How does one determine the value of these things and that's what they're going through right now."
Kemp says he would recommend for nursery owners like Steve to re-apply.
Tyrone:"So to make sure he doesn't get lost in the shuffle."
And Steve says he'll do just that. After spending decades in the nursery business, he can only hope more fruitful days are ahead.
Steve: "It is my way of life and even if time goes by and my strength probably deteriorates, I probably want to hang around to see it."
Because the USDA is still trying to figure out a compensation formula for nursery owners, applications aren't available yet.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
If you have a story affecting you or your community send an e-mail to: