TITLE 4. AGRICULTURE

PART 1. TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

CHAPTER 21. CITRUS

SUBCHAPTER D. CITRUS NURSERY STOCK CERTIFICATION PROGRAM

The Texas Department of Agriculture (the Department) adopts on an emergency basis the repeal of, and adopts new Title 4, Part 1, Chapter 21, Subchapter D, §21.61, relating to facility structural requirements. Section 21.61 is repealed and proposed as new to permit the reader to review the revised regulations in a more clear and concise manner which is easier to understand. The adoptions are made on an emergency basis to protect citrus production in Texas and to contain and slow the spread of citrus greening, citrus canker, Asian citrus psyllid and other citrus pests and diseases which can cause irreparable and widespread damage to the state's citrus industry.

The Department has determined that the citrus production and nursery industries are in peril of the spread of citrus greening and citrus canker disease. The spread of citrus pests and diseases can be damaging to the Texas citrus industry and can devastate the current and future production of citrus in Texas. However, by requiring citrus growers and producers to comply with the new rule immediately, the imminent threat created following Hurricane Harvey can be reduced.

Citrus canker, a disease that citrus is susceptible to, is harmless to humans and animals. The disease produces leaf-spotting, fruit rind-blemishing, defoliation, shoot dieback, fruit drop, and it can expose the interior of fruit to secondary infection by decay organisms. The disease does not travel through the tree to become systemic. The marketability of symptomatic fresh fruit is negatively impacted. In the field, symptoms may take several months to appear, and lower temperatures may increase the latency of the disease.

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall directly over Fort Bend and Harris counties. High winds and extreme rain associated with Hurricane Harvey remained in the affected counties for several days, creating highly favorable conditions for the spread of citrus canker. Citrus canker bacterium and diseases can stay viable in old lesions on leaves, branches and other plant surfaces for several months, including in those dropped on the ground. The disease can spread by wind, splashing water, movement of infected plant material or mechanical contamination. The pathogen flourishes under warm moist conditions and requires a host to survive in a natural environment.

Prior to Hurricane Harvey, areas within Fort Bend and Harris counties were designated as quarantine areas for citrus canker by the Department. The conditions during and following Hurricane Harvey exponentially increased the threat of the current citrus canker outbreak in Fort Bend and Harris counties to spread throughout the geographical regions effected by Hurricane Harvey.

At the current time, the Department and the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) suspect that the disease organism for citrus canker may have spread over a large area of Texas where citrus is produced. At this time, without surveying outside of the above-named counties, the extent of the current infestation outside of the above named counties cannot be estimated.

Currently, USDA-APHIS structural requirements for the exclusion of pests and disease are only mandatory in areas under quarantine for pests and disease. However, to avoid the potential spread of pests, diseases and the future expansion of quarantined areas, the emergency rule is crucial to ensure that facilities have extensive safeguards in place which will prevent the entry of pests and diseases. These additional structural requirements exceed current requirements in rule and align with USDA-APHIS requirements set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations. By ensuring these requirements are in place, it will be possible to continue producing clean citrus nursery stock throughout the state.

The adoption of the rule which requires seed, cuttings, budding, cell culture or other means to be produced inside certified pest exclusionary facilities are vital to effectively combat and prevent the spread of citrus pests and diseases to non-infected nurseries, groves and residential areas. Without requiring mandatory compliance with USDA-APHIS requirements set forth in the emergency rule, despite the expansion of quarantined areas, it will be impossible to slow the spread of quarantined citrus pests, contain pests and disease, and continue the disease free production of citrus nursery stock. The rules must be adopted on an emergency basis to ensure that facility owners are in compliance by January 1, 2018.

For this reason, the Department, in cooperation with input from Texas citrus producers and nursery industries, adopts §21.61 on an emergency basis to immediately help prevent the spread of citrus canker (Strain-A) and other quarantined pests into the commercial citrus production area.

The emergency rules will be proposed for comment on a permanent basis.

4 TAC §21.61

The adoption is made pursuant to Chapters 19 and 71 of the Texas Agriculture Code (Code), which authorize the Department to adopt rules necessary to protect agricultural and horticultural interests and administer citrus programs; and Texas Government Code, §2001.034, which provides for the adoption of administrative rules on an emergency basis, without notice and comment.

Chapters 19 and 71 of the Texas Agriculture Code are affected by the proposal.

§21.61.Facility Structural Requirements.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the emergency adoption and found it to be within the state agency's legal authority to adopt.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on November 2, 2017.

TRD-201704430

Jessica Escobar

Assistant General Counsel

Texas Department of Agriculture

Effective date: November 2, 2107

Expiration date: March 1, 2018

For further information, please call: (512) 463-4075


4 TAC §21.61

The adoption is made pursuant to Chapters 19 and 71 of the Texas Agriculture Code (Code), which authorize the Department to adopt rules necessary to protect agricultural and horticultural interests and administer citrus programs; and Texas Government Code, §2001.034, which provides for the adoption of administrative rules on an emergency basis, without notice and comment.

Chapters 19 and 71 of the Texas Agriculture Code are affected by the proposal.

§21.61.Facility Structural Requirements.

(a) All quarantined articles, as defined in §21.5, related to quarantined articles, that are grown after January 1, 2018, from seed, cuttings, budding, cell culture or other means must be produced inside a certified pest exclusionary facilities that meets USDA-APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) structural requirements, and requirements found in 7 CFR Part 301 (Subpart-Citrus Greening and Asian Citrus Psyllid, and Subpart-Citrus Canker).

(b) To qualify as an exclusionary structure which meets certification requirements, a facility must include, at a minimum, the following:

(1) Exterior walls and top.

(A) Any combination of solid surfaces and screening may be used, so long as the structure meets or exceeds USDA-APHIS PPQ insect exclusionary and citrus canker prevention requirements, including resistance to wind-blown rain.

(B) Mesh size for any screening used in walls, doors, vent covers, or other parts of a structure to be operated under a certificate of registration shall not exceed 0.3 square millimeters (e.g., 0.547 x 0.547 mm or 0.5 x 0.6 mm).

(2) Each approved structure must have at least a 100 foot citrus free buffer area around the exterior of the approved structure. If 100 feet is not feasible, a minimum buffer area of 25 feet is allowed if the side of the structure facing citrus nursery plant material is constructed with a water-proof wall, or double-walled screening with a minimum of a 4-inch space between each screen. Interior walls may be constructed of a single-wall approved screening with a minimum buffer area of 5 feet between screening and citrus nursery stock.

(3) Doors, doorways, and entryways must be designed and constructed to exclude wind-blown rain, and pests, and organisms.

(A) All doorways shall have a positive pressure air curtain, double doors, or other mechanisms sufficient to prevent the entrance of any insect pests, both during operation of the door and while the door is closed.

(B) All doors shall fit against the floor and door frame, so that no pests, diseases or rain can enter the facility.

(C) All facility emergency exit doors must be marked 'Emergency Exit Only' and may not be used as an entrance.

(D) Each entrance to the facility shall be equipped so that, prior to entering the facility, personnel must disinfect hands and arms and spray clothing and footwear with a product approved by the Department as effective against citrus canker. A footbath containing a product approved by the Department as effective against citrus canker must be located at each entrance and must be properly utilized on footwear by all persons prior to entering the facility.

(E) Vehicles, equipment, and other articles used to handle or move citrus nursery stock must be treated in accordance USDA-APHIS PPQ requirements, immediately before entering the premises.

(4) Other openings. Except for doors, all exterior openings for cooling pads, fans, vents or other parts of a structure to be operated under a certificate of registration must be covered with screening, specified in paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection.

(5) The facility perimeter must facilitate drainage away from the structure.

(c) The owner of the facility is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the facility and ensuring it remains disease and pest-free.

(d) The Department must be notified in writing immediately if a breach is detected at any time during the life cycle of the citrus stock, from propagation to point of sale.

The agency certifies that legal counsel has reviewed the emergency adoption and found it to be within the state agency's legal authority to adopt.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on November 2, 2017.

TRD-201704431

Jessica Escobar

Assistant General Counsel

Texas Department of Agriculture

Effective date: November 2, 2017

Expiration date: March 1, 2018

For further information, please call: (512) 463-4075