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FCM Applauds Rubio for Co-Sponsoring Citrus Bill

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

LAKELAND, FL (July 22, 2016) – Florida Citrus Mutual on Friday applauded U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for becoming a co-sponsor of a measure that would provide growers with an incentive to plant more trees and bolster the troubled Florida citrus industry.

Rubio joined original sponsor U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) in championing The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Actwhich allows growers to immediately expense the cost of planting new citrus instead of the standard 14 year depreciation period under the current IRS rules. The tweak to the IRS code is designed to increase slumping production. It would be available for 10 years.

Rubio, along with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, toured a grove outside of Auburndale, FL Thursday to get an update on the state of the industry. He said he will push lard for the IRS legislation.

Michael W. Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, thanked Rubio and other members of the Florida Congressional delegation for their steadfast support of the industry.

“By some estimates our industry needs to put more than 20 million trees in the ground over the next 10 years to support existing infrastructure and get our production back to where it was before HLB,” said. “We offer a sincere thank you to Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson and Rep. Vern Buchanan as well as other members of the Florida Congressional delegation for their support of this important bill. It is truly a bipartisan effort and reflects the fact that Florida’s elected officials understand the citrus’ vital economic role.”

Florida growers are now battling citrus greening, or HLB, 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 has reduced production more than 50 percent over the past decade.
In the House, Rep. Vern Buchanan is the primary sponsor of the bill. Co-sponsors from Florida include Reps. Bilirakis, Brown, Castor, Clawson, Crenshaw, Curbelo, DeSantis, Deutch, Diaz-Balart, Frankel, Graham, Grayson, Hastings, Jolly, Mica, Miller, Murphy, Posey, Rooney, Ros-Lehtinen, Ross, Wasserman-Schultz, Wilson, Webster and Yoho. Rep. Olson from Texas and Reps. Gosar, Schweikert and Franks from Arizona are also co-sponsors of the bill.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $10.7 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 62,000 people, and covering about 500,000 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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Governor Signs Packinghouse Tax Exemption

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Dear Friends of the Florida Citrus Industry,

Good news! Governor Scott on Wednesday signed the measure allowing a sales tax exemption for fresh fruit and vegetable packinghouses on equipment purchased, repairs to existing equipment and labor.

We have pursued this legislation for several sessions so I am happy to report we finally got it done! Thanks to Governor Scott, Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli, Representative Matt Gaetz and all of our champions in the House and the Senate. The exemption should provide a nice financial shot in the arm to our fresh industry. It takes effect on July 1, 2016.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Mutual.

Regards,

Mike Sparks

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USDA Estimate of 2015-2016 Florida Orange Crop Increases

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

LAKELAND, FL (March 9, 2016) -The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Wednesday said its estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida orange crop increased 3 percent to 71 million.

A 2 million box rise in Valencias to 35 million accounted for the increase. Early and Mid-Season varieties stayed at 36 million boxes.

“We are still in a crisis situation right now in regards to battling the HLB disease although this slight increase is welcome good news,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “We still continue to produce a quality crop in the face of adversity and that’s a testament to the resilience of the Florida citrus grower.”

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.

During the 2014-2015 season, Florida produced 96.8 million boxes of oranges. Visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate.

The USDA’s estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida grapefruit crop also rose slightly to 10.7 million boxes from 10.5 million. Specialty citrus decreased a fraction to 1.8 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice (FCOJ) remained at 1.45 gallons per 90-pound box.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $10.8 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 62,000 people, and covering about 515,000 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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Results of Florida Citrus Research Order Referendum Announced

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced today that Florida’s citrus growers reauthorized the Florida citrus research order in a statutorily required referendum conducted by the department. More than 87 percent of ballots received by the department were in favor of reauthorization.

The Citrus Research and Development Foundation serves as the advisory council of record for the research order. The Citrus Research and Development Foundation was created to conduct disease and production research to ensure the survival and competitiveness of Florida’s citrus growers.

A marketing order establishes, by vote of the producers, a self-imposed assessment or fee to be used for a variety of industry activities, including: advertising and promoting their agricultural products, expanding markets and distribution channels, researching improved growing techniques, regulating the quality and grades of their products, regulating trade practices, and resolving other critical problems and needs in the industry.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com

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Statement by Commissioner Adam Putnam on Citrus Crop Forecast

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its citrus crop forecast for the 2015-2016 season:

“Today’s citrus crop forecast further illustrates that Florida’s citrus industry is on a precipice,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam. “Florida is synonymous with citrus, and without immediate and tangible support, as well as a long-term solution, Florida is facing the prospect of losing its signature crop and its more than $10 billion economic impact.”

Commissioner Putnam recently announced a multifaceted plan to provide Florida growers with more immediate support until a permanent solution is developed. That plan includes, among other things, a cost-sharing program for the removal or destruction of abandoned citrus groves to eliminate material that harbors citrus greening and the vector that spread the bacterial disease. This proposal is currently working through the legislative process as HB 7007 and SB 1010.

The USDA’s forecast of 69 million boxes of oranges, weighing 90 pounds each, represents a decline of more than 71 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

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FCM Applauds Tax Measure to Increase Tree Plantings

Friday, November 6th, 2015

LAKELAND, FL (November 6, 2015) – Florida Citrus Mutual on Friday applauded a measure introduced by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-16) that would provide growers with an incentive to plant more trees and bolster the troubled Florida citrus industry.

H.R. 3957 – The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act – allows growers to immediately expense the cost of planting new citrus instead of the standard 14 year depreciation period under the current IRS rules. The tweak to the IRS code is designed to increase slumping production. It would be available for 10 years.

Florida growers are now battling citrus greening, or HLB, 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 has reduced production more than 50 percent over the past decade.

“By some estimates our industry needs to put more than 20 million trees in the ground over the next 10 years to support existing infrastructure and get our production back to where it was before HLB,” said Michael W. Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Rep. Buchanan’s bill will help eliminate some of the financial risk growers are weighing when they decide whether to re-plant. Growers want to farm and this measure will tip the scales and get them back in the game even in this tough environment.”

“We appreciate the hard work of Congressman Buchanan and all of the Florida Congressional delegation who supports this bill. It truly is a bi-partisan effort.”

Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Bilirakis, Castor, Crenshaw, Curbelo, Diaz-Balart, Hastings, Jolly, Murphy, Rooney, Ross, Wasserman-Schultz and Yoho.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $10.7 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 62,000 people, and covering about 500,000 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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Farm Credit’s Ron O’Connor named National Friend of Extension

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

During the recent October 2015 National Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) Conference in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, Florida’s Ron O’Connor was named a National Friend of Extension for Epsilon Sigma Phi. Each year, ESP recognizes up to four volunteers from across the country – business leaders, volunteers or public servants – that go above and beyond in their assistance to Extension professionals. Extension is the National system of delivering research-based programs and information to the people from Land-Grant Universities.

Sumter County Agent Martha Maddox originally nominated Mr. O’Connor for this recognition, which was endorsed by Florida ESP and UF/IFAS Extension. Florida’s Alpha Delta Chapter of ESP, made up of faculty from the University of Florida/IFAS and Florida A&M University, recommended Mr. O’Connor for this national award.

A native Floridian and graduate of the University of Florida, Ron O’Connor is deeply devoted to the Extension family and plays a vital role in supporting the total Extension program. Ron said, “I was honored to receive this award at the National level. I accepted this award on behalf of the three Florida Farm Credit Associations and the hard working, resilient, member-borrowers. They provide me the resources that allow me to work with the wonderful professionals in UF/IFAS Extension at both the state and county levels.”

He began his career with Farm Credit of Central Florida in 1987 as Marketing Manager and was named National Farm Credit Marketer of the Year in 1997. During his tenure at Farm Credit, the association’s marketing and advertising programs have earned four Crystal Biostar Awards, symbolizing the Farm Credit systems best program in that category. He also chairs the statewide marketing committee, which combines resources of all three Florida Farm Credit Associations to achieve maximum exposure for Farm Credit at Florida’s premier agricultural events. He currently serves as Director of Marketing and Governmental Affairs, where he is charged with coordinating advertising and marketing programs to enhance awareness of the Farm Credit Advantage. Additionally, he tracks legislative and regulatory issues affecting the association and communicates with appropriate organizations and individuals on behalf of Farm Credit as directed by their Directors and President.

If there is an UF/IFAS Extension or agriculture event going on in Florida, you will probably see Ron O’Connor there, whether it’s an industry event, Extension, 4-H or FFA, Ron is usually in attendance, and is generally taking pictures to memorialize the event, and which he shares openly.

Ron serves as a Board member and primary photographer for the Florida Ag Hall of Fame, is a member and Past President of The Florida Agriculture Institute, is Past Vice President of the Florida Citrus Showcase and serves on the Florida FFA Foundation board.. Additionally he is a member of the Florida Council of Cooperatives, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and FNGLA’s Allied Committee, and has received an Honorary FFA Membership and Degree.

Ron has been responsible for providing numerous sponsorships for Extension and 4-H Youth activities throughout his 25 plus years with the Florida Farm Credit System. The sponsorships Ron helps provide through Farm Credit assist in reducing the costs of conducting these educational programs and helps reduce the fees that would otherwise be passed to participating Extension clientele. Through Ron’s efforts, Farm Credit sponsors the annual Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents Young Professional Award, which includes not only a plaque but a monetary award as well; the agent recipients use these funds for local programming or for expanded professional development training. Ron was instrumental in securing a $20,000 sponsorship from the National Farm Credit Council Services for the 2012 NAE4HA conference held in Orlando, which made Farm Credit the biggest sponsor of this conference, and helped reduced the registration cost for Extension agents attending that professional development event.

Ron has served in numerous advisory and support roles for Extension groups and activities over the course of his career with Farm Credit. He serves on local 4-H and Extension Advisory committees, as well as area and state wide committees. He is one of the Stakeholder Advisory and Planning Committee members of the Extension Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. This is the major state wide annual conference for small and alternative farmers. He has not only secured sponsorship funds for this conference from Farm Credit, but serves in the planning advisory capacity for the conference as well. Ron is one of the Extension supporters we can truly always count on for support whether monetarily, advisory or in lobbying efforts on Extensions behalf.

Epsilon Sigma Phi is professional fraternity of Extension Educators across the US. It leads the Extension System in providing and facilitating professional development that focuses on the Extension organization and the Extension professional.
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Oriental Fruit Fly-Aerial Spray Update, Maps and Q&A

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Below is a letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regarding recent Oriental Fruit Fly finds.

Growers,

As you are aware, we detected a male Oriental fruit fly yesterday outside the core areas where previous flies were found. As a result, the quarantine zone has been expanded, and the duration of the quarantine has been extended to February 5, 2016. The updated map of the quarantine zone can be accessed at the link below.

This morning, we determined it necessary to begin aerial spraying treatment to prevent further spread of and devastation caused by the Oriental fruit fly. Aerial spray treatments will be applied over night as early as Friday, October 2, weather permitting. A map denoting the area that will be sprayed can be accessed at the link below.

The insecticide to be applied is Spinosad, also known as GF-120. It is approved for organic use and is a common ingredient in garden products and veterinary medicines routinely prescribed to pets. Spinosad poses no hazard to people, pets, farm animals or wildlife. We are working to notify individuals who are registered as “chemically sensitive” with the U.S. Department of Health. We are also working to notify beekeepers and will assist them to take measures to ensure the safety of their bees. The spray may leave a sticky residue on homes and cars, which can be removed with water.

Here are additional resources regarding these changes to the Oriental fruit fly eradication program:
• Map of updated quarantine zone and planned aerial spray treatment: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/62907/1443160/version/1/file/09292015_OFF_REDLAND_COMBINED_TREATMENT_AND+QUARANTINE_ZONES_24X24.pdf
• Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding aerial spray treatment: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/62908/1443165/version/1/file/FAQ_aerial_spraying.pdf
• FDACS Oriental fruit fly helpline: 1-888-397-1517
• Oriental fruit fly website: www.FreshFromFlorida.com/Orientalfruitfly

We will circulate an update on today’s finds later this afternoon, but wanted to provide you with these updates as quickly as possible.

Thanks,
Cheryl

Cheryl Fulford Flood
Director of External Affairs
Office of Commissioner Adam H. Putnam
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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Commissioner Adam Putnam Declares State of Agricultural Emergency for Oriental Fruit Fly Infestation

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

MIAMI, Fla.—Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today declared a state of agricultural emergency due to the Oriental Fruit Fly infestation in Miami-Dade County. The Oriental Fruit Fly is considered one of the most serious of the world’s fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm. It attacks more than 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including: avocado, mango, mamey, loquat, lychee, longon, dragon fruit, guava, papaya, sapodilla, banana and annona. The fruit flies lay their eggs in host fruits and vegetables. Since the first detection of the Oriental Fruit Fly on Aug. 26, 2015 in Miami-Dade County, a total of 158 flies have been detected, specifically in the Redland area (156), Kendall (1) and Miami (1).

“The Oriental Fruit Fly is one of the world’s most destructive pests and poses a significant threat to Florida’s $123 billion agriculture industry and the two million jobs it supports. Miami-Dade County’s agriculture industry is a $1.6 billion industry, and we will use every weapon in our arsenal that’s necessary to eradicate this pest and protect Florida agriculture and our economy,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

The infestation threatens the area’s ability to produce the fruit and vegetables the nation has grown to rely on during the winter months, the region’s overall economic health and the thousands of jobs that rely on this industry. Miami-Dade County is the state’s leader in the production of tropical vegetables, tropical fruit and ornamental nurseries, and overall agricultural production generates more than $1.6 billion in annual economic impact and supports more than 11,000 jobs.

The department, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been aggressively working to eradicate this pest. Efforts include:

Assisting industry with the requirements of their compliance agreements;

Quarantining an 85-square-mile area around the core areas where detections have been made in order to prevent the spread of the fly;

Treating a 1.5-square-mile area around each fly detection. This treatment, which is conducted by the department, consists of attracting male flies to bait which consists of an attractant, an insecticide, and a thickening agent. The flies are killed when they feed on the bait. The bait mixture is applied weekly to upper portions of telephone and utility poles. The application will continue for at least two life cycles of the fly after each find, which is approximately 60 days;

Removal of fruit from host trees—while leaving the trees—within 200 meters of a larval or mature female fruit fly find; and

Ground spraying with GF120, a pesticide certified for use in organic farming. Spinosad (GF-120 NF NaturalyteTM Fruit Fly Bait) is an insecticide that is extracted from the naturally occurring soil microbe, Saccharopolyspora spinosa. Spinosad is in common use by organic growers and was granted a “Green Chemistry” award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which classifies it as “reduced risk” because of its good environmental profile.

It is important to note that all appropriate protocols are in place and that the fruits and vegetables introduced into the marketplace from this area are certified for movement and safe for consumption by the public.

To view a copy of the declaration, click here. For more information, visit FreshFromFlorida.com, or call 1-888-397-1517.

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USDA Purchase of Orange Juice

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Dear FCM Members and Friends:

We just received some great news. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will purchase $20 million worth of surplus frozen concentrate orange juice as part of the fiscal 2015 Section 32 bonus purchase program. Florida Citrus Mutual made a multi-year request for significant purchases to Secretary Vilsack last month and we are fortunate this purchase was authorized just before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year with what remained of the Section 32 funds.

As you probably know, the Section 32 program supplies the USDA’s feeding programs with domestic products while improving U.S. farmers’ purchasing power. Most likely, the USDA purchase will be for 100% Florida orange juice only, although California or Texas orange juice would qualify. The USDA has made several Section 32 purchases of Florida citrus products over the years.

Florida Citrus Mutual estimates a $20 million purchase would move about 6 million pound solids which would lower inventory by about one week of supply. If this all moves before October 1, a 2.5% reduction in supply is anticipated. This purchase is expected to be worth about $.02/ps on average over the entire orange crop. Although it is relatively small on average, it means a lot in total, $12 million in Florida Citrus Farm Gate Revenue.

We believe the current $20 million OJ purchase is the initial buy in what should be a series of purchases over the next few years to help alleviate inventories. Clearly, this will have a positive effect on grower returns.

FCM thanks Secretary Vilsack and Senator Bill Nelson for their hard work on this request as well as U.S. Congressmen Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross and the entire Florida Congressional delegation. We very much appreciate all they do for our industry.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Regards,

Mike

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