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Florida Citrus Mutual Thanks Supporters of Farm Bill

January 30th, 2014 by tamara

LAKELAND, Fla. (January 30, 2014) – The country’s largest citrus grower organization offered members of the Florida Congressional delegation a sincere “Thank You” Thursday; a day after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Farm Bill containing $125 million in citrus research funding over the next five years.

“The vast majority of Florida’s House members stepped up to the plate on behalf of agriculture to pass a solid Farm Bill that directs our nation’s farm policy in the right direction for the next five years,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “The investment in citrus research is going to go a long way in uncovering solutions to citrus greening disease which in turn will help preserve a way of life for communities across Florida.”

“So to Representatives Bilirakis, Brown, Buchanan, Castor, Crenshaw, Diaz-Balart, Frankel, Garcia, Hastings, Murphy, Nugent, Rooney, Ross, Ros-Lehtinen, Southerland, Wasserman Schultz, Webster and Yoho I say ‘Thank You’!” Sparks said. “Of course Senator Bill Nelson on the Senate side, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have been huge in this effort as well.”

The citrus research initiative will be overseen by Secretary Vilsack, in consultation with industry stakeholders from Florida, California and Texas. A committee made up of nine representatives from those states will make funding decisions which must be approved by the Secretary.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid. It attacks the vascular system of a tree and can kill it within two years. Citrus greening is endemic to Florida and can be found in all 32 commercial citrus producing counties.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering about 530,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com. To receive winter weather updates follow FCM on Twitter.

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Plan on Attending Crop Insurance Meeting!

November 3rd, 2018 by tamara

Dear Mutual Members and Friends:

Florida Citrus Mutual is urging growers to attend at least one meeting focused on reforming the current citrus fruit insurance program. These “listening sessions” (see schedule below) are designed to get feedback from growers as FCM moves forward with improving the current program or moving to an “Actual Production History” program. Crop insurance reform is now in the spotlight in the wake of Hurricane Irma relief. Come and have your say.

FCM experts will present premium and indemnity scenarios.

You do not have to be a Mutual member to attend. We hope to see you there.


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Nominations Sought for the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame

October 17th, 2018 by tamara

Bartow, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2018) — Nominations are now being sought for potential inductees to The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, with induction ceremonies scheduled to take place on Friday, March 8, 2019 at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The luncheon is co-sponsored by Florida Citrus Mutual and the Florida Department of Citrus.

The mission of the Hall of Fame is to recognize those distinguished leaders that have made significant contributions to the industry and to preserve and share the rich heritage of Florida citrus. Eligible nominees for the Hall of Fame are those distinguished leaders who have made significant contributions to the Florida citrus industry in any of the following fields: pioneers, harvesting, packing, processing, marketing, scientific and/or educational areas.

Last year’s inductees were L. Gene Albrigo, of Daytona Shores, Fla., and Marvin D. Kahn, of Sebring, Fla. Anyone may nominate or re-nominate their choice for the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Because of the limited number who may be inducted each year, the Hall of Fame encourages interested parties to resubmit candidates that may have been nominated in previous years, but not selected at that time.

The deadline for nominations is November 1st and all nominations should include a summary of the nominee’s accomplishments, letters of support from industry members and a photo. Any nominations received after this date will be considered for the following year. Nomination forms are available by contacting Brenda Eubanks Burnette at (561) 351-4314, BBurne1003@aol.com or by visiting the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame web site at www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com .

Completed applications must include a photo and should be e-mailed to BBurne1003@aol.com. Hard copies should be sent to Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, 2506 Gardens Parkway, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410.

For more information, please contact Brenda Eubanks Burnette at (561) 351-4314 or BBurne1003@aol.com.

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Hurricane Relief Block Grant Info

September 19th, 2018 by tamara

Dear Mutual Members and Friends:

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 18 citrus producers can apply for the Florida Citrus Tree Recovery Program (Block Grant) through the Department of Emergency Management contractors co-located with FSA staff at USDA service centers in Bartow, Kissimmee, Wauchula, Okeechobee, Moore Haven, Fort Myers, and Fort Pierce. Click here for contact information https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=fl&agency=fsa

A requirement of the Block Grant program is that producers must first apply for benefits under the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). The 2017 WHIP covers losses of producers impacted by hurricanes and wildfires during 2017. Producers may apply for 2017 WHIP and the Florida Citrus Tree Recovery Program in one visit.

Keep in mind, FDACS, DEM and FCM will hold four informational meetings next week regarding the Florida Citrus Tree Recovery Program (Block Grant). Please plan on attending.

Monday – September 24th , 9:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. – USDA Horticultural Lab – 2001 S Rock Rd. Fort Pierce, FL 34945

Thursday – September 27th , 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Citrus Research and Education Center – 700 Experiment Station Road Lake Alfred, FL 33850

Thursday – September 27th , 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Bert Harris Ag Center 4509 George Blvd. Sebring, FL 33875

Friday – September 28th – 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Dallas Townsend Center 1085 Pratt Blvd. LaBelle, FL 33935

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.


Mike Sparks
Florida Citrus Mutual, EVP/CEO

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Set Up WHIP Appointment Now

July 6th, 2018 by tamara

July 6, 2018

Dear Mutual Members and Friends:

We wrapped up the fourth Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) meeting in Ft. Pierce yesterday with a large crowd at the ARS facility. All told, Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) and USDA hosted almost 800 attendees during the week. If you didn’t attend one of the events we have some information for you regarding the start of the WHIP application period which begins July 16. At that time, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will also begin distributing fact sheets and more information on the program. We will make sure you get every available piece of information.

FCM suggests you call your local USDA Farm Service Agency office immediately to set up an appointment to discuss WHIP eligibility.

For a list of FSA offices go to https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=fl&agency=fsa

If your farm is not registered and mapped with FSA you will need to do it to take part in WHIP, so when setting up an appointment inquire about the process. You must be in FSA’s system to take part in the WHIP. There are no AGI provisions in the WHIP program, and growers who receive 75 percent of their adjusted gross income from agriculture will be eligible for up to $900,000 in payments while those deriving less than 75 percent from farming will be capped at $125,000. A grower’s insurance coverage will factor into the WHIP payments with more coverage resulting in higher payments.

In addition to WHIP, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) will manage a block grant program that contains $340 million for citrus growers. There are no AGI or payment limits with the block grant program, other than the Congressional mandate that citrus financial recovery cannot exceed 85% of estimated losses for all insured growers, and 65% losses for uninsured growers.

However, anyone who wants to take part in the block grant relief program must first submit a WHIP application. To prevent duplication, the WHIP data will be used to determine eligibility for the block grant program.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the industry are still working out the details of the block grant program but we know it will have three buckets of funds:

1. Compensation for the replanting or rehabilitating trees damaged during Irma, including the cost of new trees and irrigation systems, fertilization and other grove
caretaking costs.
2. Compensate growers for lost production.
3. Two year crop insurance subsidy if you commit to buying 60/100 coverage over the next four years. The programs require growers to buy tree and crop insurance for at least
two years. A four year commitment gets the subsidy.

We understand there is a lot of complexity to WHIP and accompanying paperwork. But we believe this is a fair program that will provide the necessary funding to get growers back on their feet in addition to building a foundation for the industry to expand in the coming decade. As more details emerge, we will keep you informed. Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.


Mike Sparks
Executive VP/CEO

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USDA-FSA Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) meetings

June 26th, 2018 by tamara

Dear Florida Citrus Industry:

Florida Citrus Mutual is working with the Gulf Citrus Growers Association, the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, the Indian River Citrus League and the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association to host four area meetings to introduce the 2018 WHIP which is designed to get citrus growers financial assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The scheduled and agenda are attached. The meeting agenda and subsequent questions are to discuss citrus losses only.

Florida Citrus Mutual and our regional organizations STRONGLY recommend all growers attend one of the meetings. Although attendance is not mandatory the meetings will provide an excellent opportunity for growers to organize their thoughts on the WHIP application process.

Keep in mind, we anticipate that FSA will START ACCEPTING applications by July 16.

If you have any questions about the meeting please reach out to Andrew Meadows at andrewm@flcitrusmutual.com or 863-682-1111

See you soon,


Agenda for Grower WHIP Meetings

Grower Meeting Schedule

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Disaster Relief Programs Announced

May 1st, 2018 by admin

Dear Mutual Members and Friends:

Please see press releases below from the USDA on Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief. The first release explains in some detail the WHIP program, which will provide significant dollars to Florida citrus. In the second press release, Secretary Perdue has authorized a $340 million block grant to assist Florida citrus producers specifically. This is great news for the industry. We will keep you apprised of the program details, parameters and deadlines as soon as they are released.

I would like to extend a sincere thank you to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for his hard work on this issue. Governor Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Congressman Tom Rooney have also done yeoman’s work on our behalf and we are very appreciative.

Let me know if you have any questions.



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Register Now for Citrus Engineering Conference

April 27th, 2018 by tamara

60th Biennial

June 7, 2018

Ben Hill Griffin Jr. Citrus Hall
Citrus Research and Education Center
Lake Alfred, Florida
8 am Registration to 3:30 PM Close of Symposium

Sponsored by
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Processing Subdivision Technical Chapter&
Florida Section

Juice and By Product Processing
Elizabeth Webb, Engineering Manager, Vincent Corporation

Overview of the PSR for the Processing Industry
Michelle Smith, Senior Policy Analyst, US FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Alternatives to Traditional Feed Mill & Recovery of By-Products from Citrus Peel Disposal
Jose Biot, Global Technical Manager of Citrus Processing, Liquid Foods, JBT Corporation

Steam Explosion to extract Additional Fruit Value from Waste and Unfit Fruit
Christina Dorado, Research Chemist, USDA-ARS
Citrus & Other Subtropical Products
US Horticultural Research Laboratory

Impact of Curing HLB on Costs, Prices, and the Orange Juice Market
C Allen Morris, R.A. Morris Agribusiness Consulting, LLC

The Future of the Florida Citrus Industry
Panel Discussion with audience participation

After 15 years of challenges including declining sales,
hurricanes and HLB, where do we go from here?

A catered lunch is included with your registration.
This Conference will also be available by webcast for those who may be challenged by time or travel

To register via the Web, visit our secure registration site at


PDHs will be awarded, with certificates provided for Professional Engineers attending the full day conference. PDHs are awarded through the ASME Florida Section, a licensed provider of PDHs in Florida through affiliation with ASME New York. Please note Florida Professional Engineers attending the Conference are responsible for retaining a copy of their PDH certificate for the FBPE.

For more information please contact James Stana, Secretary, Citrus Engineering Conference Planning Committee, at CitrusEngineeringSym@gmail.com

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Growers Should Purchase Some Level of Crop Insurance by April 15

April 2nd, 2018 by tamara

By Michael W. Sparks

The Hurricane Irma Florida citrus relief package is moving forward and we expect Secretary Perdue to unveil the program sometime in the next few weeks. FCM is in contact with our allies in Washington and Commissioner Adam Putnam’s staff on a daily basis.

Once the news breaks we will get it out as fast as we can to membership. In the meantime, Florida Citrus Mutual strongly recommends growers purchase some level of crop insurance by April 15, 2018 – the final date to apply for 2018-2019 coverage. Current policyholders who wish to make changes to their existing coverage also have until the April 15 sales closing date to do so. As the details of the citrus relief package emerge, FCM believes purchasing at least catastrophic (CAT) insurance for the 2018-2019 is a show of good faith to the USDA, as well as providing limited protection for citrus growers. It appears the language authorizing the relief dollars does not require crop insurance for the 2018- 2019 season, however as you know everything is open to interpretation.

Buying relatively cheap CAT insurance is well…insurance. Also understand that USDA and Congress are both very keen on crop insurance to offset losses from agricultural disasters, such as Hurricane Irma. We do know recipients of relief dollars will have to purchase crop insurance for the next two “available” years and growers who had crop insurance at the time Irma hit will be eligible for greater relief payments than those who did not. Growers should take a hard look at their risk management portfolios now because there is zero chance our industry will be fortunate enough to secure direct payments should a disaster hit in the future. That train has left the proverbial station. Consequently, Florida Citrus Mutual through its Crop Insurance Advisory Committee is working with consultants, our Congressional delegation and the USDA to make Florida citrus’ insurance products a better tool for growers going forward. It is clear deductibles are too high, premiums are many times unaffordable and indemnity payments are not consistent with current crop values. If we are to survive and ultimately thrive as an industry the situation must be rectified.

For more information on the 2018-2019 citrus fruit policy go to https://www.rma.usda.gov/fields/ga_rso/2019/2019flcitrus.pdf

To see the Risk Management Agency’s press release regarding the April 15 closing date go to https://www.rma.usda.gov/fields/ga_rso/2017/flscd041517.pdf

A list of crop insurance agents is available online at https://www.rma.usda.gov/tools/agent.html

Growers can get a premium amount estimate here https://ewebapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/costestimator/

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FCM Applauds Congress for Passing Hurricane Irma Relief Package

February 9th, 2018 by tamara

BARTOW, FL (February 9, 2018) – Florida’s largest citrus grower organization thanks members of the U.S. House and Senate for approving a Florida agriculture disaster package early Friday that will send billions in relief to growers hit hard by Hurricane Irma.

The package – passed as part of the federal budget deal – provides a total of $3.6 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $2.36 billion of which will be used to make direct payments to Florida producers who’ve suffered hurricane-related crop losses last year. Citrus’ share is expected to be $760 million. The bill now moves to the President.

“We cannot thank the Florida delegation enough for their bi-partisan support of this measure to get citrus growers back on their feet after a catastrophic blow from Hurricane Irma,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Growers and the communities and families that rely on citrus are thankful to say the least. Livelihoods and a way of life are going to be saved because of this funding.”

“Senators Nelson and Rubio were absolutely instrumental in the success of the relief package. On the House side Congressman Rooney, Ross and Diaz-Balart did yeoman’s work for us in addition to almost the entire Florida delegation. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Governor Rick Scott were with us every step of the way and we thank them as well.”

On September 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state hitting Florida’s major citrus producing regions with up to 120 mph winds. The hurricane blew fruit off the tree and caused widespread tree damage. An FCM survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at more than 65 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $8.6 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 46,000 people, and covering about 450,000 acres. Founded in 1948, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com. Follow FCM on Twitter @FLCITRUSMUTUAL


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A Call to Action

February 8th, 2018 by tamara

Dear Mutual Members and Friends:

The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) sometime today. The measure to fund the government includes $2.36 billion for Florida agriculture relief.

Please immediately contact your U.S. Representative in the House and strongly urge them to vote “YES” on the bill. We have attached contact information. Do not hesitate to contact House members in other states if you have a relationship with them.

The time is now to push this bill through!

I would suggest you include any or all of the following points:

• Name, location and quick history of your business;
• For the past decade Florida citrus has been fighting HLB, a bacterial disease that kills trees quickly. The disease and the vector are not native to the United States. Citrus production has gone down more than 70% while the cost to grow citrus has nearly tripled. Consequently, for the last ten years, groves have not been sufficiently profitable. To continue to produce citrus, growers have utilized all reserves, there are no retained earnings and loans have been maxed out;
• Hurricane Irma ruined hope that the 2017-18 season would mark a modest rebound. The hurricane brought 110 mph winds and excessive rain which resulted in an estimated 65% crop loss;
• Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pegged a preliminary citrus damage estimate at $760 million. The number will grow significantly as long-term effects slowly emerge. It will take years to truly understand the destruction of Hurricane Irma;
• We need a relief/rebuild package or a way of life for local communities and a huge economic engine for the State of Florida will disappear.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Please make the call today.

Mike Sparks
Executive VP/CEO
Florida Citrus Mutual

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