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State Declares Disputed Victory in Medfly War


Growers, packers and county agricultural officials relished the quarantine's end after more than two rough years in which the restrictions limited where and how avocados, oranges and other export goods could be packed and shipped. In recent years, any medfly sighting has threatened the movement of the commodities, which tend to command a much higher price overseas.

"We've been under quarantine it seems like forever," said Leon Spaugy, Los Angeles County's agricultural commissioner. He noted that the region has been under various quarantines for the medfly off and on since an outbreak in 1975, with almost annual infestations since 1987.

The most recent quarantine cost the avocado and citrus industries heavily because of protective measures needed at the harbor, where goods are shipped to markets in Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Exports were not halted, Spaugy said, but special measures taken to reassure foreign customers proved expensive. Spaugy was optimistic that the eradication efforts and planned preventive measures would keep the medfly at bay.

In Orange County, the quarantine area included most of the land north and west of Jamboree Road, said LeFeuvre.

Leon Gardner, foreman of Yorba Orange Growers, expressed delight that the quarantine was over. Throughout the quarantine, the 40-member, grower-owned cooperative in Anaheim has had to pay other facilities outside the affected zone to pack produce for export to certain markets that refused to accept goods from the quarantine area.

"It has been a big financial burden on our growers to have them pay packers outside the area [so that we could] keep our foreign markets," he said.

"A lot of growers, packers and processors are in that [quarantine] zone. It limits your markets. A lot of time you don't get the money that the produce is worth."

"Now," he said, "we have all our markets again."

Villa Park Orchards Assn. a packinghouse in Orange, could not ship citrus to Japan during the quarantine, said Keith French, manager of field operations. Instead, fruit had to be hauled to Villa Park's other packing house in Fillmore, outside the quarantine zone.

Monday's news "is a big plus for our growers. It cuts down on the hauling costs for them," French said.

Even growers outside the quarantine zone expressed relief.

"Just the fact it's lifted is a huge burden off the minds of growers," said A.G. Kawamura, former president of the Orange County Farm Bureau and a partner in Orange County Produce, an Irvine-based grower.

Times staff writers Bettina Boxall, Dan Morain, Martha Groves, Eric Lichtblau and Deborah Schoch contributed to this story.

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