Federal Judge Denies Texas Ban On Florida Citrus
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Texas officials’ attempt to keep fresh Florida citrus out of the Lone Star State.
U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture followed the law in February when it lifted a 3 1/2 -year ban on shipments of fresh Florida citrus to other citrus-producing areas.
Texas officials had sought to have the quarantine reinstated; they claimed the USDA did not allow adequate time for comment when it lifted the ban. Vela’s ruling was in response to a suit filed by the state of Texas in an effort to stop shipments of the Florida fruit into the state.
″With all the information put before me, I am satisfied that the USDA followed the law in promulgating the rule,″ Vela said Wednesday.
The USDA on Feb. 11 lifted the ban on shipments of fresh Florida citrus into Texas and other citrus-producing areas. The Florida fruit was quarantined after an outbreak of citrus canker there in August 1984.
Canker can damage the plants and cause lesions on the fruit or make it drop prematurely.
After the USDA lifted the ban, Texas issued a 30-day emergency quarantine.
Then on March 9, officials of the Texas attorney general’s office and state agriculture department sued, contending the USDA violated its own rules in lifting the ban without allowing a period for comment.
Texas citrus producers contend that an outbreak of canker would devastate the state’s $65 million citrus industry; Florida officials have maintained that the canker is under control and the threat to Texas is minimal.