The California Department of Food and Agriculture extended a program aimed at slowing the onslaught of an insect and bacteria that are devastating U.S. citrus plants.

The state will extend by four years the California Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Program, established in 2009 largely to guard against the advance of the Asian citrus psyllid.

The tiny bug is believed to carry a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, or greening disease, that is already responsible for causing $1.3 billion in damages to citrus crops in Florida. Experts know of no cure.

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So far, California's $2-billion citrus industry has yet to be hit. Growers hope to stop the pests in their tracks by coordinating with the state, reporting any outbreaks and agreeing to quarantines. To help efforts, citrus producers are expected to contribute $15 million this year to the prevention program.

The Asian citrus psyllid has been found in nine California counties, but huanglongbing has been detected only once. That was on a residential property in Hacienda Heights

"We do not have the disease now, but we believe it's just a matter of time," said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


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