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WASHINGTON — The sprawling citrus orchard that Victor Story toured recently sure looked like a steal. For sale at $11,000 an acre, the investors who owned it were going to lose money, and potential buyers like Story might have stood to reap a handsome reward.
But as he bumped along the 40 acres of groves in a large SUV, Story was taken aback by the sickly look of the trees. Their leaves were an inch shorter than normal and yellowing. Full-size oranges were still apple green. Other mature oranges were no bigger than ping-pong balls.
What Story saw wasn’t an anomaly. It’s the new norm in the Sunshine State, where about half the trees in every citrus orchard are stricken with an incurable bacterial infection from China.