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Author Topic: Our Viewpoint: A revived wrinkle in the war against citrus greening  (Read 362 times)


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Since its founding in 1935, the Citrus Department has financed its operations from the citrus growers’ self-imposed tax on their output. Last year, however, with crop loads severely diminished by the fatal greening disease, the department for the first time in its history asked lawmakers for help from the state’s general fund. The move signified how desperate the citrus industry has become since the greening plague took root.
Yet, per The Ledger, we recently witnessed an example of the growers demonstrating again the willingness to look after their own.
The Lake Wales-based Florida Natural Growers, a cooperative of 14 major Florida citrus producers, is offering $13.5 million in seed money to incentivize growers to seed new groves.
The Planting Incentive Program offered $10 million when it was originally conceived in 2014. It was so popular that Florida Natural added another $1 million a year later. As evidence of the demand it generated, only 60 percent of the orange trees funded three years ago have been planted because of a dearth of young trees.
The initiative will pay $10 per new tree, which covers about a quarter of the cost to plant a tree and bring it to fruit-bearing maturation. Still, that’s far better than nothing.
Florida Natural also has expanded the program to pay for grapefruit trees, groves of which are more depleted on a percentage basis than oranges trees, as well as lemon trees, which are largely unaffected by greening and are seen as an alternate to either of the other fruits. Thus, $10 million will be set aside for orange trees, $3 million for grapefruit and $500,000 for lemon.
The co-op will not pay to replace dead trees. That would counter the program’s purpose, which is to spur investment in new trees, which are sorely needed. Since the onset of greening, about one-third of Florida’s mature orange trees have perished, joined by roughly half the grapefruit trees.

In exchange for the cash, the recipients agree to provide their crop exclusively to Florida Natural for juice processing.
“It’s great news for the Florida citrus industry,” Mike Sparks, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland, the growers’ trade group, told The Ledger recently. “It shows the private sector is willing to offer incentives to replant, and it ties in great with public incentives.”
“No one program is a silver bullet,” Sparks added. “It’s going to take a combination of incentives to get the Florida citrus industry back on its feet, which will take a few years.”


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