Fort McDowell Tribal Farm
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Indian Tribe is one of the region’s major citrus producers. For next season, their farm will truck citrus to a Yuma packinghouse, General Manager Harold Payne says. He is negotiating with a Sunkist house while arranging semi-truck transportation for the three-hour, 200-mile trek from the farm to Yuma.
The Fort McDowell Tribal Farm has 325 acres of lemons, grapefruit, tangelos, tangerines and Navels. About 200 acres are in production, with another 125 acres, mostly lemons, coming into production in the next few years.
“The extra transportation costs to Yuma will increase our costs by several cents per carton,” Payne said. “That’s not enough to make an impact where we can’t continue production.”
The citrus will be transported in 1,000-pound plastic bins at night when the temperatures are cooler.
Payne says the tribe has no intention to alter its citrus production plans due to the MCGA closure.
“We’ve made a large investment in citrus and we intend to get our investment back,” Payne said. “Our yields are good and we grow high-quality citrus. This is prime time for our orchards. We’re going to stay with it.”
Most of the orchards were planted in 1996 and 1997.
Another challenge to bite the Western citrus industry is building fear over the Asian citrus psyllid insect, the major vector of citrus greening (Huanglongbing) disease. The disease has killed thousands of acres of citrus trees in Florida.
The psyllid has been found in traps in southern California and Yuma County. Huanglongbing has not been found in either state.
The pest-disease combo is causing some growers in every Western citrus-growing region to question whether to plant new acres or replace older orchards in citrus.