Florida Citrus Commission outlines budget priorities

Commissioners outlined core functions of the Florida Department of Citrus

BARTOW, Fla. – In a budget workshop held Wednesday, the Florida Citrus Commission outlined core functions of the Florida Department of Citrus and discussed proposed budget allocations for the coming year.

Proposed changes include an overall budget reduction by nearly one-third. The changes would include a reduction in staff as well as the elimination of some programs. A preliminary budget will be presented at the May FCC meeting and will include an initial proposed grower assessment rate.

Commissioners, in conjunction with FDOC staff, presented details Wednesday on each business unit, including a look at how grower assessment dollars and $7.65 million in general revenue funds from the State would be allocated.

Many programs currently part of the Scientific Research Department would stay in place due to prior fund commitments and a desire to continue health and wellness research, including two scientific research studies currently being conducted on cognition and the cardiovascular benefits of orange juice.

“While costly, these studies are critical to our industry going forward,” said Commissioner Ned Hancock.

In Economic and Market Research, cuts would be made to the amount of data collected from outside agencies. However, the FDOC would continue to provide all reports currently issued by staff.

Commissioners requested a closer look be taken at international marketing programs for Florida Orange Juice. International programs are supplemented with Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Market Access Program funds from the United States Department of Agriculture. Overall funding from FAS would remain similar to current levels while grapefruit programs would decrease slightly across all markets.

In retail marketing, the focus would be on softer ways to support retailers – a continuation of changes that took place earlier this year with the elimination of coupon programs. Funding for retail programs as well as Gift Fruit programs would come solely from general revenue funds from the State. Food service programs would be eliminated.

The public relations department would place a greater emphasis on issues management, both reactive and proactive, across all programs and continue to target millennial moms. General revenue from the State would be used primarily for health and wellness programs while grower assessments would fund reactive programs.

The administrative department pared down its overall budget, including legal, accounting, human resources and IT.

Shannon Shepp, executive director of the FDOC, outlined the process for staff changes, including working with the Florida Department of Management Services to construct a transition plan for outgoing employees. Shepp expects the process to stretch through October.

Overall budget projections include $5.3 million in grower assessments, $7.65 million in general revenue funds from the State, $4.3 million in FAS funding from the USDA, $246,200 in budgeted reserve for a total of $17,508,300 for 2016-17.

This figure does not include estimated personnel, transition or travel expenses of $2.85 million. This also does not take into account any possible unused funds carried over from the current season.

FDOC staff will present a proposed preliminary 2016-17 budget to Commissioners at the May 18 FCC meeting. Commissioners will then vote on a final budget in June. The grower assessment rate (box tax) will be finalized in October after the first USDA crop estimate of the season.

The 2016-17 budget will be based on a projection of 58.1 million boxes of oranges, 8.765 million boxes of grapefruit and 1.059 million boxes of specialty citrus.

“Every grower I’ve talked to values the Department of Citrus,” said Commission Chairman Ellis G. Hunt. “We are going to streamline, downsize and make significant changes. But hopefully, at the end, everybody will understand how we got there and why.”

About the Florida Citrus Commission

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 62,000 people and provides an annual economic impact of nearly $10.7 billion to the state. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.