Citrus Greening has been tough on Florida citrus growers, and the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) is feeling the sting of the disease too. The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) has chosen to drastically cut FDOC staff and budget, as announced on June 14th. The Executive Director for the FDOC, Shannon Shepp, discussed the budget and staff cuts in an audio interview on the Citrus Industry magazine website. Listen to it here.
Citrus Growers Demand Cuts
Back in February, a dozen or so large Florida growers, packers and processors called on the FDOC to slash their budget to what would amount to a skeleton crew, in a letter to the FCC. The letter maintained that the losses caused by citrus greening meant the grower assessments that pay for the FDOC’s functions were burdensome to already beleaguered growers, packers and processors. It also stated that, due to citrus greening and the state of the market, the FDOC’s marketing efforts were inadequate to “move the needle.”
The letter called for reducing the budget by over 75 percent, cutting grower assessments by 70 percent, reducing staff from 43 employees to 10, putting marketing and research projects on hold and cutting overhead wherever possible. Additionally, the letter also called for retaining the legal and statistical functions of the FDOC, along with a 3-cent box tax for research, a measure that recently passed by overwhelming consensus in a grower referendum. In response, FCC Commissioner Ellis Hunt Jr. maintained that budget cuts were already on the table.
FCC Budget Cut Response
After weeks of cuts, the FCC announced a 2016-17 preliminary budget that slashed the FDOC’s budget by almost 32 percent and the staff by 43 percent. While pre-box assessments won’t be made until the final NASS crop forecast in October, many rates have already been lowered significantly when compared with last season’s rates. The future of the FDOC is one topic to be presented at this year’s Florida Citrus Expo in August.
Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.