Redcurrants are still illegal in some USA states. Why and is this reasonable?
The redcurrant (or red currant), Ribes rubrum, is a member of the genus Ribes in the gooseberry family , native to parts of western Europe (Belgium, Great Britain ,France, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, northern Italy, northern Spain, Portugal and Poland). They tend to grow best in coll regions with abundant moisture. More importantly right now they grow in my surrey garden. A single plant (like mine) can produce up to 2.5kg. What however many are not aware of, including myself till recently, is that redcurrants are prohibited in many USA states. For example they cannot be shipped to North Carolina, New Hampshire, West Virginia. Other states like Delaware and Massachusetts insist on a permit. Some states prohibit them in certain counties/areas, for example Maine and New Jersey. The federal government had banned the growing of black and red currants in 1911 when the burgeoning logging industry put pressure on lawmakers to eliminate the currants because they were thought to be an intermediate host of white pine blister rust. New disease-resistant varieties of currants were later developed and in 1966 the government left it up to the states to lift the ban. Quinn persuaded New York state to lift the ban in 2003.In 1933, Pennsylvania passed a law that limited growing gooseberries and currants in certain areas; however, the law is not enforced. Therefore, all Ribes can be grown in the state. Many USA citizens are unfamiliar with currants generally including redcurants, although New Yorkers grew 2,700 acres of them in the 1920s.
The reasons are quite historical. In the early 1900s, the federal and state governments outlawed the growing of currants and gooseberries to prevent the spread of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola). This fungal disease attacks both Ribes and white pines, which must live in close proximity for the blister rust fungus to complete its life cycle. Although the federal ban was rescinded in 1966, some northern states as above do still prohibit the planting or cultivation of currants. In 2003 though, New York State passed a law that modified its ban to allow commercial growers and home gardeners to legally grow red currants, gooseberries and immune or resistant cultivars of black currants throughout New York State.
New disease-resistant varieties of currants were later developed and in 1966 the government left it up to the states to lift the ban. Quinn persuaded New York state to lift the ban in 2003.It is good news that production is slowly returning in USA as redcurrants are undoubtedly healthy fruit. After all, red and black currants have four times more vitamin C than oranges and twice the antioxidants of blueberries.