Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., announced Jan. 11 that it would no longer financially support the removal of citrus trees in Florida for the purpose of canker eradication, there has been a clamoring to develop a plan to suppress it and other exotic diseases, such as citrus greening.

The Citrus Health Response Plan will identify minimum production standards that will be required to maintain the protection of the industry from citrus canker and other pests and diseases. David Kaplan, an assistant deputy administrator at the USDA, will lead the federal arm of the program, which will be a cooperative effort between the USDA, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee; the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville; and the citrus industry.

Five key elements have been identified and committees were formed to help draft the Citrus Health Response Plan:

• The production practices committee, lead by Lakeland, Fla.-based Florida Citrus Mutual President Marty McKenna.

• The harvesting committee, chaired by Wayne Douberley of Kahn Grove Service Co., Sebring, Fla.

• The management and movement committee, chaired by Dan Richey of Riverfront Groves Inc., Vero Beach, Fla.

• The residential/commercial committee, lead by Connie Riherd of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry.

• The nursery/budwood committee, chaired by Jim Graham of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Compensation for grower losses incurred under the mandatory 1,900-foot rule previously had been paid by the USDA and the state. Under the Citrus Health Response Plan, there likely will be no provision for compensation. But for those growers who lost trees prior to Jan. 11 as a result of the eradication program, federal and state compensation continues. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced Feb. 9 that the USDA had made available an additional $100 million for compensation. Johanns acknowledged that the sum probably would not cover all losses but assured growers that every available source of funding to eventually cover those losses was being investigated.

Dumping decision

Florida’s growers and processors got a boost Feb. 8 when the U.S. International Trade Commission, Washington, D.C., determined that Brazil illegally dumped orange juice and caused material harm to Florida’s orange growers and processors.

As a result of the decision, the anti-dumping duty deposits on imports of Brazilian orange juice, which range from 9 percent to 20 percent of the export value of the juice, will remain in place for another two years.

Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., was quick to respond to the decision.

“I appreciate the ITC’s thorough consideration of the matter,” he said. “I am disappointed that Brazil continues to participate in illegal trade practices, and this action proves why strong anti-dumping laws are so important to American businesses.”

Changes are coming

Without a doubt, there will be changes in the way citrus is grown in Florida. It is going to cost more money for growers to stay afloat in the face of these diseases.

The supply of nursery trees is under huge pressure to rebuild after suffering substantial losses to canker. Protection of the budwood source is of the utmost importance and will require new vigilance. And processors already are streamlining the way they do business with the development of a new inspection program that will significantly reduce their costs.

Now comes a look at possible changes to the way the Florida Department of Citrus, Lakeland, conducts business. At its Jan. 18 meeting, the commission agreed to appoint a 12-member  industry committee to formulate recommendations as to how the industry might deal with so many changes.

“Now that canker has been declared endemic and development pressures remain high, the industry is entering a new world order,” Commission Chairman Andy Taylor said.

In a notice to all industry organizations, Taylor outlined some of the questions arising from the industry’s changing circumstances.

• What will be the required nature and level of future marketing support?

• Should the citrus commission statutory authority be amended to provide flexibility for use and collection of funds beyond what currently is permitted?

• Are the state and federal research dollar commitments to canker and other production issues likely to be sufficient?

• If not, should the industry tax itself to pay for more production research? 

And that is a mere sampling of issues to be considered. 

“It is my hope that the special committee will prove to be a productive endeavor and that its recommendations will be sound, well-vetted, and acted upon with an urgency commensurate with the industry’s challenges ahead,” Taylor said. “I expect the product of the committee will be non-binding recommendations to all of us, which if implemented could result in a comprehensive, coordinated, focused approach to protecting Florida’s citrus industry.”

The committee will be asked to deliver recommendations before the end of the legislative session and prior to the June completion of the Department of Citrus’ 2006-07 plans and budgets.