Citrus greening threatens family-owned farm

DADE CITY, Fla. - The McCarthy brothers, Thomas and Johnny, are fighting to keep the family business going.

"I stare at these trees that used to be gorgeous with fruit hanging on them like that. Now they look like this. It's disheartening," Johnny said.

The McCarthy's farm has 90 acres of orange trees in Dade City. They are continuing a tradition started by their great-grandfather in the late 1800s.

"We're proud of that. Very much so," said Thomas.

But in the past two years, they say they've seen production drop 50 percent, all because of citrus greening. It's a bacteria spread by an insect that's made its way to Florida in the past decade.

"This is going to effect a lot of people's lives. There's a lot of folks whose livelihood depends on this citrus," Johnny said.

Once these trees are infected, there's no cure. This disease isn't harmful to humans or animals, but it leaves millions of these Florida oranges worthless.

"Basically you are looking at a tree half the size it should be, hardly any foliage at all. This fruit will eventually hit the ground so it doesn't get picked or put in a box," said Thomas.

The latest orange crop is expected to be Florida's smallest in a quarter century.

Fewer oranges to pick means thousands of jobs lost, and countless billions gone from Florida's economy.

The federal government recently directed $125 million to fight citrus greening.

That's why farmers like the McCarthy brothers are hopeful researchers will find a way to cure greening.

They are looking at other business ventures, but said they won't give up on their orange trees.

 "We'll be here until we die. I grew up on this land and I don't intend on leaving it," Johnny said.

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