Citrus groves are a common sight in Florida, with millions of acres planted annually.
Now, they may soon face the prospect of being forced to abandon a large part of their operations.
The Florida Department of Agriculture announced in a memo to its members Tuesday that the department is requesting that Citrus Park and Riverside citrus groves be closed to all cultivation.
In a letter to members, USDA Assistant Secretary for Agricultural and Natural Resources, Brian K. Clark, wrote that the state is asking the citrus grove owners to voluntarily vacate their citrus grooves by April 18.
If the groves remain closed, the USDA will be notified and the grove will be placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection.
In its request, the Department said that the grooves are in direct violation of the Florida Department’s pesticides regulation.
The USDA said the state’s regulations allow citrus grovers to use pesticides on more than 80 percent of the state.
The regulations were enacted in 2009, but citrus grover restrictions have not been updated in 20 years.
The groves have been closed for decades because the Florida citrus industry is struggling with the spread of citrus disease.
“The department’s proposed closure of citrus grooving operations would severely impact Florida citrus farmers and would be devastating to the industry,” the USDA said in its letter.
“As a result, the state requests that the citrus industry be asked to voluntarily voluntarily vacating its citrus groove operations, effective immediately.”
The Groves will remain closed until the end of the month, and the citrus companies have until May 15 to submit plans to comply with the USDA’s proposed rules.