By MIKE SCHNEIDER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sixteen years after their legal battle began, about 18,000 homeowners in central Florida will be paid more than $42 million collectively by Florida’s agriculture agency for destroying their citrus trees during a state effort to eradicate a harmful citrus disease. The homeowners in Orange County will receive $700 per healthy tree destroyed as part of an order issued in state court in Orlando last month. A judgment from a 2014 trial assessed the value of each tree as $344 but fees and interests over the years doubled the per-tree payment. While unharmful to humans, canker can cause the leaves and fruit of citrus trees to drop prematurely.