A successful season, despite challenges

To ensure that growers have options for their unused land, the League has pursued water farming as a possible alternative for growers.

This column originally appeared in the Indian River Citrus League’s newsletter, River Ramblings.

VERO BEACH, Fla. – Even though the industry faced challenges in 2013-2014 season there were some major accomplishments impacting our Indian River growing region that were achieved, and several of the successes impacted the citrus industry as a whole.

The major highlight was the approval of the state legislative appropriations request of $3.5 million for HLB research. This all came about with a visit from Governor Scott in May of 2012 to the Indian River citrus growing region for one of his work days. Many groups and individuals helped to make this a reality including Senator Joe Negron, House members Steve Crisafulli and Ben AlbrittonCommissioner Adam Putnam and Mike Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual. The money will be available for research on July 1.

In November, in an effort to help its grower members and the industry with building grapefruit juice inventories, the League pursued a red grapefruit juice purchase by the USDA. On January 31, 2014, it was announced that the USDA plans to purchase bottled grapefruit juice for its domestic food nutrition assistance programs. This purchase of $9.5 million should ease grapefruit juice inventories and provide relief to the growers. This is the largest grapefruit juice purchase in history.

Going on behind the scenes in the research arena, the League was successful in obtaining a three-year study headed up by Dr. Tim Gottwald of USDA/ARS. This $860,040 TASC grant through USDA/FAS is entirely focused on the assessment of the Viability of Black Spot-blemished citrus fruit as a pathway for disease dispersal via domestic and international trade, and an assessment of methods to mitigate any risk of disease spread on harvested fruit. The project has just entered into its third year of funding. The League and Florida Citrus Packers have also applied for a TASC grant for the Assessment of the Efficacy of decontamination of Surface Microbial Contaminates on citrus fruit during packinghouse processing. This request is for $297,969 over a two-year period.

To ensure that growers have options for their unused land, the League has pursued water farming as a possible alternative for growers. This past year focused on necessary legislation that sets the tax rate on land utilized for water farming and legislation that urges DEP to expand its scope to include water farming (SB 536 and HB 601). These two legislative bills pave the way for all ag land owners in the state to protect a valuable resource.

2014 Florida Citrus Show held in January in Ft. Pierce at the Fenn Center was another successful event. Produce marketing tips and insect and disease management strategies were the focus of the show. Kicking off the show was the Indian River Citrus League Golf Tournament and Banquet held at The Club at Pointe in Vero Beach. The banquet has grown to include sponsorships and the attendance continues to grow. The event allows growers and members to network and features a guest speaker as well as honoring a Legend of the River.

The new and improved River Ramblings continues to incorporate more advertisers and an updated look. It continues to feature articles impacting the industry and has been well received by the readers. Knowing of the tough economic times that River growers are facing, the League is working hard to reduce its operating expenses and increase the value of the growers’ investment in the League.