Bloomington nursery's citrus trees to be destroyed by California agriculture department

Rob McMillan Image
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
California Department of Food and Agriculture is destroying nearly $1 million worth of citrus trees at a Bloomington nursery due to the threat of disease.

BLOOMINGTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Roxana Vallejo was 12 years old when her parents opened up Santa Ana Nursery in Bloomington.

"It's years of working, 20 years," said Vallejo.

But she says Wednesday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be at her business to destroy almost all of their citrus trees.

Vallejo said the combined value of the trees is almost $1 million.

"They're all fine, and look at all the new growth, it's pretty good," Vallejo said.

The reason they're being cut down is huanglongbing, or HLB, one of the world's worst citrus diseases. The insect that spreads HLB has taken a strong foothold in Southern California.

"It's estimated that the citrus industry may go commercially extinct unless they can get a handle on this problem," said Mark Hoddle, of UC Riverside more than one year ago.

Today, the effect of HLB is devastating for mom-and-pop businesses.

"We sell citrus trees like crazy," said Vallejo.

Even though there is no proof Vallejo's trees are infected, the state is forcing the nursery to take action because it is in a quarantine zone.

The owner said the only other option would be to build a series of greenhouses to put all 3,000-plus citrus trees in. But not only would that cost well over $100,000, there's no guarantee it would even work.

"You wait two years, they come in and test periodically, after the two years they come and test them for HLB, and it's still a risk if it's positive or negative, you just don't know," said Vallejo.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said in a statement, "CDFA has been working with the nursery operators for months explaining the requirements for unprotected, at-risk trees. Because the nursery hasn't indicated a willingness to comply with the quarantine, the next step, unfortunately, is removal of those trees."

"Sometimes I'm so sad, and sometimes I'm so mad because it's like, you try to do anything, but can't win against the government, you're never going to win," Vallejo said.