WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn have announced that the European Union has amended its requirements for imports of U.S. citrus.

Specifically, the EU has dropped its requirement that U.S. groves be surveyed for citrus canker, which eases entry of U.S. citrus into the EU market and saves growers millions of dollars in production costs.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have worked continuously with EU officials over the last 10 years to ensure that the EU’s plant health requirements for citrus are based on scientifically established risks.

The new EU directive requires countries where citrus canker has been detected to have a disease management program and to ensure that exported fruit have no symptoms.

The EU’s change means it’s satisfied with APHIS’s disease management program. As a result, grove surveys are no longer required, saving U.S. producers about $5.6 million dollars per year.

“At USDA, everything we do is grounded in sound science, so it is good to see that the EU has seen that our disease management program protects our citrus products,” Perdue said. “When we rely on science, it levels the playing field for everyone. And when the playing field is level, American agriculture will win.”

Florida producers grow 25,000 acres of grapefruit, of which 70 percent is intended for shipment to the EU market, according to industry estimates.

Citrus exports are expected to increase by 25 percent, or about $15 million, during the first year.

Implementation of the new directive is expected in time for Florida’s grapefruit export season in mid-November.