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The USDA’s crop forecast for Florida’s 2014-2015 season includes a projection of 108 million boxes of oranges, which would represent a modest increase over the prior season.

BARTOW, Fla – On a noon conference call today, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual forecast [PDF] for the 2014-2015 citrus crop, which featured an increase in earlier, unofficial projections for Florida’s signature orange crop for the coming season.

The Florida Department of Citrus issued the following statement from executive director Doug Ackerman:

“The forecast released today is one more reason for the optimism we have seen throughout the summer in the faces of our growers. The numbers are encouraging but not surprising. In the face of enormous challenges, Florida’s citrus industry has continued to set an example of courage, optimism and resilience.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we know that the Florida Citrus industry has always prevailed through difficult times, because of the innovation and hard work our growers bring to the groves every single day. And for generations, Americans have rewarded that investment by making Florida Orange Juice the nation’s most popular fruit juice.

We head into the coming season with high spirits and the same relentless focus that we have had throughout the industry’s darkest days.

I’m excited by the team we’ve put together here at the Department of Citrus, the guidance we’re getting from the Florida Citrus Commission, the buy-in we’re getting from our industry partners and the direction we’re headed. We are very proud of the programs Florida Citrus will be rolling out throughout the season, each of which is designed to strengthen our relationships with the folks who already love Florida Orange Juice and to give new friends a chance to fall in love with the best-tasting juice on the planet.

It’s another great day to be a fan of Florida Orange Juice.”

And from FDOC’s chief economist, Dr. Marisa Zansler:

“Today’s forecast — though only an estimate — represents a potential, modest adjustment to a trend we’ve seen over the past several seasons.

Looking at both demand and supply-side factors, it is important to understand that Florida Citrus growers continue to sell every bit of fruit they produce. In order to truly bounce back from the challenges HLB (citrus greening) has posed to the industry, growers will continue to do everything possible to sustain the productivity of their groves while researchers look for alternatives and an ultimate cure. The industry has seen significant loss of infrastructure due to the impact of citrus greening. Recently announced tree-planting programs by the federal government and one of our major brands are key to rebuilding that infrastructure, and so is the scientific research that will be funded by the Farm Bill.

In the coming months, we will obviously keep a close eye on fruit drop, which has been significant and unpredictable, and, of course, on the weather. In the meantime, orange juice remains America’s favorite fruit juice by a wide margin. Today’s numbers give us reason to expect that status to continue.”

About the Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Citrus Commission is the governing board of the Florida Department of Citrus, an executive agency of the Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry. The commission is a nine-member board appointed by the governor to represent citrus growers, processors and packers. FDOC activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels. The industry employs nearly 76,000 people and provides an annual economic impact close to $9 billion to the state. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.