WORKSHOP MEETING OF THE CITY OF DEERFIELD BEACH

CITY COMMISSION

 Monday, October 23rd ,  1:30 P.M.

 

The meeting was called to order at 1:30 P.M. by Mayor Capellini on the above date in the City Commission Room, City Hall.

 

Roll Call showed:

           

 Present:                                Commissioner Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed

                                    Commissioner Peggy Noland                                

Mayor Albert Capellini, P.E.

           

 

 Also Present:                        City Attorney Charles Seaman

                                    City Manager Larry Deetjen

City Clerk Felicia Bravo

 

CITRUS CANKER WORKSHOP

 

Mayor Capellini stated that the city is not in favor of the state’s method of eradicating citrus trees from the City of Deerfield Beach. Personal property has been abused, they are using subcontractors that have not been properly trained, and is concerned the work was awarded to the lowest bidder. The commission believes that there should be a more controlled method of removing the trees, there has been no plan submitted to the city as to how the trees are to be removed. The commission is not convinced that the situation is as bad as the state is proclaiming.

 

City Commissioner of the City of Fort Lauderdale has a letter from the mayor addressed to Crawford dealing with numerous complaints. She is appalled by the method in which people gain access to property, even though there may be a locked gate or a dog in your backyard. They can call animal control and have the dog removed from the property. Inspectors will not tell the address of where the infected tree is located even if the tree he is currently inspecting is not an infected tree but allegedly is affected. Fort Lauderdale’s stand is that they are displeased with how the program is being handled and they are looking forward to seeing what the outcome of this meeting will be and also the outcome of Miami’s lawsuit.

 

City Manager, Larry Deetjen, feels that the commissioner should have a contractor meeting to discuss how the program should and will work. He feels the program should be re-thought. The canker is not life threatening to humans or animals nor is it necessarily life threatening to the tree.

 

Sue Olson representing Broward County Commissioner Jacobs, states their office feels that if the eradication program were handled correctly and there was enough scientific evidence given to the citizens, they would have the support they seek in order to protect the citrus industry.  However, there is no confidence the program is necessary and is being handled right. The compensation offered, $100.00, is not equal to the loss of a tree.

 

Deputy Craig Meyer, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture introduced himself. The department has been dealing with citrus canker in various forms over the last one hundred years. The first major outbreak that occurred in Florida was in 1913. It was detected in north Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana in the early 1890’s and wiped out the citrus industry. In 1933 during the height of the depression, the state stopped looking for citrus canker. The citrus industry still hired inspectors until 1941 when most of the inspectors were drafted for the war. In 1984 there was a new strain of citrus canker detected. By 1988 Asian Canker was detected and at that point the program was re-initiated and the canker was thought to be eradicated by 1992. It turns out that it was not. Due to financial reasons and cutbacks, the citrus canker inspections went by the wayside. By 1995 the Citrus Fruit Fly program was in affect. In an area south of Miami Airport, an inspector, who had been an inspector during the Citrus Canker program, noticed lesions on a tree and bagged the leaves and sent them to the laboratory. The leaves were diagnosed as having citrus canker. This canker had an entirely different DNA from the citrus canker that was detected in the 1980’s. There are two kinds of citrus canker, Dade County strain, which is in our area, and the Palmetto strain. During prior outbreaks through 1998 and 1999, the program was guided by  two doctors from the University of Florida. Their study claimed  if you eradicated an infected tree, and removed the trees within 125 feet from that tree, you would have an opportunity to eradicate citrus canker. Due to weather, the canker grows faster in the southeast area of Florida than it does in the middle of the state. After all of the data was compiled it was determined that 95% of the bacteria from an infected citrus canker tree falls to the ground within 1900 feet of the infected tree. 99% falls to the ground within 2700 feet. There are several documented movements of over 4000 feet from an infected tree. The studied period of time included all normal southeast Florida weather events. The canker is very mobile and is moved by a combination of wind and rain.  In June of 2000 the US Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture convened a scientific symposium to review the states find of citrus canker, not only for eradication, but also for detection for prevention. This was an “around the world” three day symposium in Ft. Pierce. A presentation by a Brazilian scientist revealed that something occurred in the world between 1995 and 1997. The Asian citrus leaf minor, which had only been observed in southeast Asia, appeared in every citrus growing region in the world. This makes citrus more vulnerable to canker according to the study done in Brazil. When the leaf minor gets into the wounded leaf of a citrus tree, it takes 10-14 days for a scab to heal. Also, there is something in the excrement of the leaf minor that causes the wound to be receptive from 1/100th up to 1/1000th of the normal level of bacteria. The double whammy is that it is exposed to infection longer and it takes less bacteria to cause the infection. The fact of this movement explains why the canker has not been eradicated.

 

The purpose of today’s meeting is to explain the eradication program and how it is to work. After reviewing the data from the scientist, which will be published shortly, the commissioner along with the governor and the secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, decided to step up the pace of the eradication program and get the job done within the year. In March it was determined what resources were needed to accomplish this task. Approximately 2000 people would be needed. Currently approximately 500 were staffed. Also approximately 300 cutting crews would be needed and at that time there were about 50. While expecting these first two issues to be a problem to overcome, they were easy in comparison to the third issue, which is to communicate and explain the program to the citizens. That is the purpose of this meeting today.

 

Currently we are on a pace that would have us completed in about five weeks. At that point we would have more of a situation such as we have in Palm Beach County where we have very little Asian strain citrus canker. However an important point is that in all cases, where we find the disease to be present, the eradication program will be initiated. Currently we have removed about 5000 acres of commercial citrus trees which is about one million trees. The 1900 foot rule is applied in commercial as well as residential areas.

 

Question: If the wood chips from an infected area are moved to a non-infected area, does it spread the disease?

 

Answer: After research, we found bacteria about 10 feet out from the trucks, however the bacteria dies fairly quickly. The material is supposed to be moved to a landfill in a truck that is closed. Fifty uniform forest rangers are being sent in to act as quality control. Another issue is that once a crew is moved from one site to another they are required to spray their equipment with a decontaminate. The quality control people will also be used to insure that happens.

 

Question: How many trees has canker actually killed?

 

Answer: In the United States of America, none. All trees are removed immediately once it’s determined a tree is diseased. Although the disease is not lethal if the tree is left alone it will start having early fruit drop and leaf drop. If the tree is left to continue to stand eventually you will have no new flush. Eventually you would have dead branches and no new fruit.

 

Question: What efforts toward research to use alternative eradication are there?

Also the forestry division, another division of the state, would like to have been consulted. They said they would have done it differently especially in urban areas to allow for re-forestation, which has not been done.

 

Answer: Cosmetic is a term used to describe what happens to the fruit, but over time, the loss of the tree canopy and the early leaf drop through early fruit drop, goes beyond cosmetic. Eventually the tree will not bear fruit.

 

In terms of research, it is directed at the University of Florida in Gainsville. One of the professors developed, and is going into the first growing stage, a genetically engineered canker resistant citrus tree. It will take about five years of growing them, then they will be brought down here to a lab to infect with canker. The

actual  field  work will determine if the tree can actually alter the resistance of canker.

 

Question: How can the state cut down trees based on a study that we so far have no access to?

 

Answer: The entire USDA citrus office was re-located to Ft. Pierce this year so the publication has been slow to be released. Our scientist participated in the study and reviewed the data along with the commissioner and are comfortable with the results of the study.

 

Question: What type of credentials do the inspectors have, are they pathologist?

How much training do you need to be a pathologist?

 

Answer: The inspectors have gone through a preliminary level of training. When they see what they suspect to be citrus canker they call in the pathologist or a

diagnostician that have more advanced training. When going into a new area, laboratory test are used to determine if we’re dealing with citrus canker.

 

Question: What kind of impact was there for the trees when the citrus canker program was cut back?

 

Answer: It was cut because there had not been any canker found for a period of two years. Once it was spotted again in approximately 1995, it had infected many grapefruit trees in the Manatee area.

 

Question: How was it decided to look in southeast Florida after finding it in the Manatee area?

 

Answer: The DNA for the citrus canker that was found down here was different from what was found in the Manatee area. The citrus canker down here has the same DNA as canker found in southern Brazil or northern Argentina.   So the two were not related.

 

Question: So that was 1995 and it is now 2000, why did you allow it to spread for five years then start with this program?

 

Answer: The program was started immediately with the program at the 125 foot level, which we thought was going to work. When it was discovered it was not working we started a different study, which took up the entire year of 1998. In 1999 the study was reviewed and it was determined we needed the 1900 foot level. All during that time we were continuing to eradicate infected trees through out this part of Florida. The disease was moving faster that we were removing the trees.

 

Question: Will you continue to eradicate all trees, are you not fearful you will wipe out all citrus trees? What is the manifestation period?

 

Answer: Based on the study in 1998, the average is 144 days from when the tree is infected until you visually detect it. If you remove all trees within the 1900 foot area, chances are the trees which are in the incubation period, will have been removed as well. We have been looking, for the past five years, to find fewer trees infected with canker than the number of trees we have eradicated. This would be an indication that we are on a down swing. If you look at the maps it has slowed down significantly. 

 

Question: Commissioner Noland asked why the eradication program was started without properly training the workers in regards to de-contamination? What kind of training do the workers receive?

 

Answer: Supervisors are supposed to insure that the workers are following the rules for de-contamination. That is one of the reasons for the forest rangers. They are to insure the rules are followed.

 

Question: Is there any fine or penalty when found in violation of the rules regarding de-contamination?

 

Answer: Yes, contractors are fined up to $500.00 when found in violation.

 

Question: What is the cost of the contractors to cut down these trees and what is the cost to the tax payers?

 

Answer: $6.25 per tree. The procedure is as follows: the property is surveyed and the location of the trees are indicated and also the type of tree (orange, lime, grapefruit, etc), a pathologist verifies the finding and that information is scanned into a database everynight. That gives us, in our records, independently determined from the contractor, how many trees are on the lot. In Gainsville we have a group taking invoices and matching them up with the survey report, plus a separate report from our supervisor. All three reports must match.  If they do not coincide the payment is kicked out and there is no payment to the contractor.

 

Question: What is the back up plan if all of the canker is not eradicated even if all of the trees in Broward and Dade county have been removed?

 

Answer: The plan is to be completed in approximately five weeks, as stated before, but the surveying will continue so that if any citrus canker surfaces it will be removed immediately. At this point the only way to stop the spreading of citrus canker is through eradication.

 

Question: Why are we told the trees in our yard are fine, then we come home and without any notice the trees are being cut down? Also we have not had any luck getting though on the 1-800 number provided on your brochures. Can I hire my own contractor?

 

Answer: Regarding the 800 number we are hiring additional people to handle the calls. Without debating, the bottom line is that the disease will continue to move rather there is a moratorium or not. (The commissioner promised to get back to this citizen regarding the first and last question.)

 

Question: There is a diagnostic report for my property  which says there are four trees, only one is infected. If this disease is so virile why is only one tree infected?

 

Answer: Every circumstance can not be explained, but there is a scale that is used that is described as more resistant to less resistant. The most resistant are mandarin oranges. The least resistant is grapefruit and key lime. Oranges fall somewhere in the middle.

 

Question: Is it true that the disease can be spread by animals and migratory birds?

 

Answer: There is no evidence the disease is spread by birds and animals.

 

Question: Is copper spraying effective and safe?

 

Answer: Copper spraying was used until 1989 in Brazil as a control agent. If you take two pounds of copper, dissolve in water and spray on the tree periodically, you will repress the spread. As soon as you stop spraying the canker comes right back. In 1999 the Brazilians stopped using copper and went back to the eradication program. Regarding research, we have five million dollars. The USDA is reviewing programs and will best determine where this money will be allocated. 

 

Question: Commissioner Clarke-Reed asked why the selling of citrus trees have not been stopped?

 

Answer: The USDA has put a stop sell order in Dade and Broward county to stop the selling of citrus trees.

 

Question: When was this order issued?

 

Answer: It has been a rule under the quarantined area for many years, however that did not include all of Broward county. That  changed April of this year.

 

Question: What is happening with the replacement program?

 

Answer:  The original three million dollars for the program was spent by the end of 1999. The 1999 legislature refused to fund the replacement program. The congress gave ten million dollars to carry the program forward. We have representatives from the citrus industry and people from our department meeting with congressional people in Washington regarding funding the  program.  

 

Question: Larry Deetjen would like to have a moratorium until at least mid November.

 

Answer:  It is preferred that we continue the program.

 

Question: What about the pre-eradication meeting?

 

Answer: Yes, we are agreeable to the meeting now that we are clear on the purpose of the meeting.

 

Question: When will the telephone issue be solved?

 

Answer: We are currently looking for qualified applicants to handle the enormous number of calls coming in. There are over 3000 calls in backlog.

 

Mayor Capellini thinks the program is moving too fast, he thinks the scientific information is in-complete. He suggested a moratorium for a few weeks to allow time for educating the citizens.

 

Question: Have there been any complaints about non-citrus trees being cut?

 

Answer: Very few, due to the procedure explained earlier in the meeting.

 

Question: Commissioner Noland asked the cost of the entire program.

 

Answer: Two million dollars.

  

Question: We should postpone, due to all of the problems with the program any further eradication. Commissioner Noland is frustrated and feels that this meeting has not accomplished anything.

 

Answer: We have fifteen hundred trees to remove, if we postpone we could be looking at five thousand trees.

 

Mayor Capellini concluded the meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                       

                                                             ALBERT R. CAPELLINI, P.E., MAYOR

 

 

                                                                   Attest:

 

 

                                                                        ________________________________

                                                                   FELICIA M. BRAVO, CITY CLERK