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Politics

Citrus Industry Looks for Silver Lining Amid Dismal Season

May 11, 2018 - 6:00am

Florida’s hurricane-battered citrus growers, facing their lowest yield in eight decades, continue to see a drop in production with the season’s harvest nearly complete.

But with federal disaster relief from Hurricane Irma on the horizon, the industry tried to keep a positive spin on the situation after the release Thursday of a new forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“With everything Florida citrus growers have gone through this year, we consider today’s forecast to be relatively stable and not unexpected,” Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a prepared statement. “This is an industry choosing to remain optimistic about the future. And part of that optimism comes from the support we’ve received from policy makers, industry and consumers.”

The May forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed a 1 percent decrease from an April outlook in orange and grapefruit output.

That means growers are on pace to fill 44.95 million 90-pound boxes of oranges, which is off 34.7 percent from the prior growing season and would be the lowest production of oranges in Florida since the 1942-1943 season.

Mark Hudson, U.S. Department of Agriculture state statistician, said about 89 percent of the Valencia oranges remain on trees. Non-Valencia oranges have already been picked.

Meanwhile, the amount of harvested grapefruit, which Hudson said is essentially completed for the season, stands at 3.95 million boxes, nearly half the prior season’s yield of 7.76 million boxes.

Grapefruit farming is off 63.5 percent from two seasons ago and stands at a level that hasn’t been seen in nearly a century. Growers in 1918-1919 filled 3.5 million boxes with grapefruit, a year later the number hit 5.9 million boxes.

By the mid-1990s, the state’s citrus growers were filling more than 200 million boxes a year of oranges and 50 million boxes a year of grapefruit.

Specialty fruits, including tangelos and tangerines, stand at 750,000 boxes for the current season.

The totals bring the state’s overall citrus production for the current season to 49.65 million boxes, the lowest cumulative mark since the 1937-38 season, when 40.87 million boxes were filled.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a prepared statement that the “forecast is another reminder of the continued struggles of Florida’s iconic citrus industry since Hurricane Irma inflicted unprecedented damage last year.”

The industry has long battled with deadly citrus-greening disease. But before Irma caused at least $761 million in citrus damages in September, the industry had been looking forward to an uptick in production.

Now, growers are hoping that Florida’s share of a $2.36 billion disaster-relief package that Congress approved for agricultural businesses impacted by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 will provide a multi-year bridge as replacement trees and groves mature.

In his statement, Putnam said the “much-needed disaster relief package is on the way to help growers get back on their feet.”

Florida is getting $340 million of the relief package in the form of a block grant to help citrus farmers rebuild.

Farmers are expected to be able to start applying for money through the “2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program” by July 16.


READ MORE FROM SUNSHINE STATE NEWS

Citrus Farmers in Waiting Game for Hurricane Aid

Imported Citrus Numbers Continue to Grow in Florida

Comments

Did you ever read anything about environmental concerns in Putnam's literature? The hurricane did NOT affect groves which were not using chemical poisons to kill weeds. 5G and more glyphosate are what you're going to get with Putnam. Henry Copeland's comments should be required reading for all candidates and especially Shannon Shepp. Shepp,the director of Florida Citrus quoted above, talks about optimism because of "industry support"- is he serious? What "support" is industry giving? Get the damn chemicals out and give nature a chance.

Sorry for the long difficult paragraph. I submitted it with multiple paragraph breaks and it was readable (you can cut and paste it, then add paragraph breaks to improve it), but the automatic formatting of the Comments condensed it all into one big ...

Big surprise, here is yet another article in a long series of pieces bemoaning the fall of citrus and singing for federal financial bailouts without any mention that there is a now-proven proactive agricultural solution at hand to defeat citrus greening and its various ills! Once again, let me advise readers that the industry's demise is a natural and logical extension of decades of overuse of chemical fertilizers combined with the toxic, likely, carcinogen, glyphosate, the most popular herbicide in use. This deadly protocol has turned citrus land into toxic waste sites. So treated, citrus grove soils essentially harm citrus roots and inhibit the citrus plants' internal bioprocesses (thereby destroying plants' abilities to ward off pestilience and grow stronger structures that are less prone to fruit drop). If we nurtured ourselves on foods grown in poisons we'd get just as sick as the plants do. Gee, maybe that IS happening! The best solution is NOT to continue the chemical bombardment and use new GMO plants, as big corporate agriculture and biochem conglomerates want us to do. LidoChem is a company that markets biofriendly protocols that actually detoxify the soil, regrow healthy plant root systems, and restore plants' inherent biochemical processes so plants' natural immune systems can fight things like citrus greening. The plant structures are also stronger, leading to far less damaging fruit drop (from things like hurricane Irma). The principal biofriendly product now available and in use in test groves in Haines City and Vero Beach is NutriSmart, a carbon-based microbial agent that is added to the soil. This is combined with foliars that return essential enzymes to the plants as they recover. Significantly, growers must reduce use of chemical fertilizers and cut down dramatically on applications of the toxic herbicide gyphosate (which, by the way, the Army Corps of Engineers and others pour into Lake Okeechobee as an herbicide, even though it acts as a superfood for toxic algae ... small wonder our Treasure Coast algae blooms have become so bad). Get with it readers. Please demand that citrus industry "leaders" take the blinders off, divorce themselves from the big corporate peddlers of agritoxins like glyphosate and unnecessary (and questionable) GMO plant substitutes, and take a serious look at biofriendly protocols like use of NutriSmart, etc. Our political leaders should all be put out to pasture if they are so blindly and trustingly dependent on GMO/agrichemical companies and their trade/industry association shills. All I ask is that they take an honest look at the far simpler solutions of reduced use of toxic chemicals, combined with biofriendly plant and soil restoratives. Isn't this common sense due diligence before committing us all (as consumers of agricultural products) to even more chemicals in our foods and water? Go look at the successfully restored citrus grove in Haines City (that did NOT suffer much fruit drop from hurricane Irma). Results do not lie! (Incidentally, in case you are curious, I do not work for and have no association with LidoChem, the marketers of NutriSmart. They have simply made a strong believer out of me.)

Good effort, Henry; too bad the editor never heard of paragraphing - the same was done to mine.

Time to replace the "Orange" symbol on our vehicle license plates with the old "Juan Valdez" coffee company "sombrero headed" image,...(since Florida seems headed toward "Sanctuary Status" at an ever increasing rate...)

Want a Silver Lining? Adam Putnam will out of Florida's Agriculture.

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