Often in this column I talk about the positive direction our industry is going and our need to work together to ensure a fruitful future for us and our industry, but it’s also important to discuss the programs that currently exist to help growers in the immediate, whether it be for recovery or to prepare for the future.
There are a number of groups invested in the future of citrus in the state of Florida – the FDOC, Florida Citrus Mutual, the USDA, growers associations, our state’s elected officials leaders, and many others. It’s important for those around our industry to know about and utilize that support. Two important support programs have fast-approaching deadlines for applications.
The Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) Foundation and its Existing Tree Therapies Program has been a vital resource in assisting growers to find, and fund, trials and therapies to help us battle citrus greening. Groves between 10 and 250 acres using four primary therapies on existing plantings are eligible to apply. The deadline is Aug. 31 and you can get more information on the requirements and application here.
Recently, the USDA extended a deadline for farmers to apply for grants up to $500,000 to assist with land restoration after Hurricane Ian last year. Farmers in 28 counties throughout Florida are eligible to apply, including our largest citrus-producing counties. The deadline is Sept. 25. Find your local Farm Service Agency office here to get more info and apply.
Because of the work of the FDOC, especially its Scientific Research Department, along with Florida Citrus Mutual and other groups in the citrus industry, we are truly in a period where the industry is working as a collective scientifically. Because of this, it has never been more important for us to make sure we as an industry are not only getting the relief funding we need to recover our crops and farms, but also to enhance that relief by enrolling in programs that will help guide us into the future of the industry.
This industry was built through the hard work and perseverance of the generations before us, and it is now in our hands. Utilizing these tools today is what raises the odds of us returning to that independence we once held.
Steve Johnson is Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Florida Department of Citrus. He is the owner and general manager of Johnson Harvesting, Inc., based in Wauchula, FL.