Devastating citrus disease spreads to Orange County

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Some nursery owners in Orange County must stop selling citrus plants after inspectors found Huanglongbing, or HLB, in the area. (KABC)

Some nursery owners in Orange County must stop selling citrus plants after a deadly disease has started to spread in the area.

State inspectors found a tree infected by Huanglongbing or HLB. The disease is not harmful to humans but is deadly for citrus plants. It spreads through tiny bugs called Asian citrus psyllids.

According to Richard Tiffer from the Orange County Department of Agriculture, the disease could seriously affect business. "The disease can be devastating or will be devastating to the citrus industry in California," he said.

MORE: Deadly citrus disease Huanglongbing detected in La Habra

The U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantined citrus plants in a 5-mile area around Orange where inspectors discovered HLB. It said the fine for people who buy or sell quarantined plants can range from $1100 to $60,000.

The USDA's move affected nursery owners such as MaLee Hsu, who saw her sales drop nearly 30 percent. She owns Upland Nursery in the area, and made $60,000 selling citrus plants.

Gary Matsuoka, owner of a Laguna Hills nursery, saw the five-mile quarantine coming. "We just had a sale and sold most of what we had, 90 percent of what we had," he said.

Hsu will build a greenhouse, which is one way to potentially get around the citrus plant quarantine. Matsuoka is less optimistic about the impact of HLB in Orange.

"The agents have told me we'll probably never be able to sell citrus again," he said.

Related Topics:
businessagricultureDepartment of AgricultureOrangeOrange County
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