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Argentine Citrus

August 27, 2000

* Your Aug. 21 editorial criticizing my defense of California agriculture against imported pests and diseases seriously distorts my position on this issue. You state that "[Boxer] wants the import of lemons, oranges and grapefruit from Argentina blocked to protect California growers from foreign competition." My goal is not to protect growers against foreign competition but to protect them and consumers against foreign-borne diseases that could have devastating impacts on California agriculture.

I have written an amendment requiring an independent scientific review of USDA's plan before citrus imports from diseased regions of Argentina are allowed into our country. Unlike USDA, other federal agencies routinely subject internal agency science to independent review. When USDA recently issued its rule to permit Argentine citrus into the United States, it reversed an 88-year-old policy of prohibiting imports from regions that suffer disease problems. The reason for that long-standing policy is clear and simple: It is extremely difficult to prevent the importation of diseases and extremely costly to eradicate them once here.

In reversing this policy, USDA's Argentine citrus plan relies on a new, untested approach. I repeatedly urged USDA to send independent scientists to Argentina to determine whether its approach would protect California's groves. For over two years, USDA refused.

My amendment was unanimously approved by the Senate last month, but, unfortunately, it faces heavy opposition such as yours.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER

D-Calif.

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