A Lee County circuit court judge recently ruled that Florida’s Department of Agriculture needs to reimburse Lee residents for removing their healthy citrus trees.
About 20 years ago, the state’s agriculture department removed healthy citrus trees that lived within 1,900 feet of trees infected with the bacterial disease citrus canker. It was a failed attempt to eradicate the disease. Since then, residents of Lee, Orange, Broward and Palm Beach counties have been battling for the state to compensate them.
The Florida Legislature just appropriated reimbursement dollars for residents in Broward and Palm Beach, with the governor’s final approval. Bobby Gilbert is the attorney for the residents. He says on the one hand, he’s elated for the nearly 85,000 families in Broward and Palm Beach combined.
"On the other hand, I’m feeling disappointed that we have not yet been able to deliver that justice to our clients: the 12,000 families in Lee County, as well as the 20,000 families in Orange County," says Gilbert.
But Lee County Circuit Judge Keith Kyle ruled on March 20 that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam must pay back Lee residents nearly $17 million for their lost trees.
In his ruling, Judge Kyle writes, “Based upon the record before this Court, one reasonably could even impliedly be under the impression that Commissioner Putnam may even be thwarting efforts of payment.”
About four years ago, a jury trial in Lee ruled the agriculture department pay Lee residents. Putnam appealed, but lost and still has not paid. Commissioner Putnam’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Below is Lee Circuit Court Judge Keith Kyle's March 20th Ruling