Orange County

Homeowners to get $42 million for citrus trees destroyed in Central Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — (AP) — Sixteen years after their legal battle began, about 18,000 homeowners in Central Florida will be paid more than $42 million collectively by the state for destroying their citrus trees during an effort to eradicate a harmful citrus disease.

The homeowners in Orange County will receive about $700 per healthy tree destroyed as part of an order issued in state court in Orlando last month.

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A judgment from a 2014 trial assessed the value of each healthy tree as $344, but fees and interests over the years doubled the per-tree payment.

More than 60,000 healthy, uninfected trees were destroyed in Orange County between 2002 and 2006 as part of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ efforts to eradicate citrus canker, according to the lawsuit.

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While unharmful to humans, citrus canker can cause the leaves and fruit of citrus trees to drop prematurely and create unappealing lesions on the fruit. The lesions leak bacterial cells that can spread to other trees by wind, rain or contaminated equipment, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had argued that the homeowners’ trees were a public nuisance and didn’t have value worth compensating.

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Under the program, healthy trees that were within 1900 feet of an infected tree were destroyed in an effort to stop the disease’s spread.

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