At their Bonita Springs, Fla., 2009 Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference, members of the Florida citrus industry were awaiting news of a federal rule that would end the ban on shipping their fruit to other producing states.

During their yearly industry conference, which ended June 26, growers attending in record numbers heard from a  U.S. Department of Agriculture official that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was expecting to publish the revised rule in the Federal Register by June 30.

The new rule reduces some restrictions the USDA instituted in 2006 that limited the amount fruit Florida shippers could ship to prevent contaminated citrus from spreading to other growing regions.

Paul Hornby, USDA APHIS Florida state plant health director, Gainesville, said he hoped the rule after a 60-day comment period would clear procedural hurdles and become effective by early December.

“It will be a challenge for us as we will be in middle of the shipping season,” Hornby said. “There will be some transitional issues we have to work closely with the industry on.”

Florida citrus industry meets. Awaits federal quarantine change.
Doug Ohlemeier

Dan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC, Vero Beach, Fla., has been a vocal advocate of relaxing the federal ban on shipping Florida citrus to other citrus-producing states.

Dan Richey, chief executive officer of Riverfront Groves LLC, Vero Beach, said the new rule would allow shipment of blemished fruit to all markets.

Members of Florida Citrus Mutual, which sponsored the fifth yearly
conference, will comment on the proposal along with their competitor
shippers in California and Texas, states that have been closed to
Florida fresh fruit shipments since 2006.

The challenge for all in the industry will be to submit appropriate comments during the comment period.

The meeting also had growers discussing a national effort to create a
federal marketing order to generate industry research, as well as other
pressing industry issues such as immigration reform.

Brian Koj, a labor law attorney partner with Allen, Norton & Blue PA, Tampa, Fla., said President Obama the week of June 15 gave a major speech on immigration saying how the administration has shifted its focus to more employer-based enforcement.

“During the speech, President Obama made it particularly clear that he indicated his intention is to crack-down on employers that exploit undocumented workers in order to drag down wages,” Koj said. “Expect to see a rise in enforcement actions targeting agriculture and other industries.”

This year's convention, held in the beautiful Hyatt Coconut Point resort, saw record turnout. The conference attracted 650 growers and industry people.