On June 9, Gov. Jeb Bush announced the appointments of three new Florida Citrus

Commissioners to serve on the FCC until May 31, 2008. Benny W. Albritton Jr. 36, of Wauchula, managing partner with Benny Albritton Groves Services Inc.; George H. Streetman, 58, of Vero Beach, president of Hogan & Sons Inc., and Steven M. Smith 44, Alva, vice president of the citrus division of Alico Inc., were sworn into office during the FCC's annual reorganization meeting on June 15.

The new members join Michael L. Carrere, Lykes Bros Inc., Tampa; Tristan G. Chapman, Southern Gardens Citrus, Clewiston; W. Cody Estes, Sr., Estes  Citrus Inc., Vero Beach; Harry H. Falk, Heller Bros. Packing Corp., Winter Garden;  William J. Ferrari, Tropicana Products Inc., Bradenton; Vice-Chairman Anina  C. McSweeney, Devanti Inc., Sarasota; George T. Pantuso, Circle H. Citrus Partners Inc., Ft. Pierce; Stephen W. Ryan, Collier Enterprises Ltd., Naples, and Chairman Andrew  R. Taylor, Peace River Citrus Products, Vero Beach, to make up the board for the upcoming year.

Taylor and McSweeney were unanimously re-elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman.

The Department of Citrus, governed by the FCC, is funded by a tax levied on each commercial box of citrus grown in Florida. Chapter 601 of the Florida Statute mandates the FCC establish the tax rates for both fresh and processed varieties each year. It was the new commission's first order of business.

But the groundwork toward establishing the budget and tax rate is a lengthy process. DOC Executive Director Dan Gunter presented the department's proposed budget of $64,305,000 for the 2005-06 citrus season and supporting tax rates in May to the full FCC including requests for tax increases for processed orange — from the current rate of 16.5 cents/box to the proposed rate of 18.5 cents/box; fresh grapefruit from 25 cents/box to 50 cents/box; processed grapefruit from 24 cents/box to 30 cents/box; processed specialty from 16.5 cents/box to 18.5 cents/box. The proposed tax rate for fresh oranges remained at the current rate of 20 cents/box.

The DOC's primary responsibility is to grow the market for Florida citrus products — to that end 75.3 percent of the total DOC proposed budget was earmarked for all marketing programs for all varieties.

Economic & Market Research, Scientific Research and Harvesting Research represented 13.5 percent of the total budget with administrative costs at 8.6 percent.

Over the next month, Gunter visited with each industry organization to present the proposed budget and tax rates and to seek their input.

Florida Citrus Mutual, the state's largest grower organization voted in support of the increase in the processed orange tax to 18.5 cents/box, recommended maintaining the tax for processed grapefruit and fresh grapefruit at the current rates of 24 cents/box and 25 cents/box and approved the recommended per box assessment of 20 cents/box for fresh orange and specialty.

The Indian River Citrus League voted to maintain fresh grapefruit and processed grapefruit at current rates.

Highlands County Citrus Growers Association Inc. voted in support of the 18.5 cents/box for processed orange, but did not take a position on any other tax rate.

The Florida Citrus Packers took a position on fresh varieties only, recommending the tax for fresh grapefruit remain unchanged and fresh specialty and fresh orange at 20 cents/box.

Gulf Citrus Growers Association supported up to 17 cent/box for both processed orange and specialty, recommended retaining fresh grapefruit and processed grapefruit at the current rates; fresh orange at 20 cents/box, fresh specialty at 20 cents/box and fresh grapefruit at the current rate of 25 cents/box.

The Florida Citrus Processors Association voted in support of the increase for processed orange, but took no formal position on any other tax.

Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association also supported the increase in tax for processed orange and approved the proposed tax rates for processed specialty, fresh orange and fresh specialty. They also supported maintaining the tax on fresh and processed grapefruit at current levels.

Though the FCC is not legally required to adopt the recommendations put forth by the industry — they generally do. This year was no exception. The FCC established the tax rates for the 2005-06 season as follows: processed orange and specialty, 18.5 cents/box; processed grapefruit, 24 cents/box; fresh orange and specialty, 20 cents/box; fresh grapefruit, 25 cents/box, for a total DOC operating budget of $60,395,000. Marketing programs will account for $44,836,000.

Karen McEver is the editor of the Florida Citrus Reporter, 863-294-3838. E-mail is fcrnan_k@msn.com.