Florida Citrus Industry Girds For A Pretty Tight Squeeze

Doug_Ackerman_FDOCI am a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, but my inspiration for this column comes from a story in which the Navy plays a prominent role. That should give you some insight into how important I think this story is.
The headline is inspired by the legendary World War II aviator, Lt. Colonel James H. Doolittle, who famously told his band of volunteers as they prepared for departure on a daredevil mission, “It’s going to be a pretty tight squeeze…”

As the No. 1 fan of Florida citrus, I perk up any time I hear the word “squeeze,” because, along with words like “plant” and “grow” and “pick” and “sell” and “drink,” it is one of the verbs that defines our industry. But Doolittle’s vision has even more relevance for our industry than his invocation of one of our favorite words.

In spring 1942, as the nation reeled from the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, Doolittle was tasked with leading a daring raid on Tokyo, utilizing B-25s — medium-range bombers designed for the Army’s ground-to-ground missions. Doolittle’s mission, however, would require his team of courageous airmen to launch their attacks from the deck of the Hornet, a U.S. Navy carrier.
He trained his team, “Doolittle’s Raiders,” right here in Florida, at Eglin Field.
In order to enable the Raiders’ heavy, powerful aircraft to take off from such an ocean runway, Doolittle directed that everything non-essential be stripped away from the aircraft. He knew the planes would need more than 1,000 pounds of fuel and 2,000 pounds of bombs for the mission; any excess weight was an impediment to getting airborne from the Hornet’s short runways.
And, in one of the more dramatic moments of a war filled with them, at the last minute, the mission was forced to launch from a distance almost twice as far from the target as originally planned. Thus, every pound of fuel was even more precious. There were no “creature comforts” on those stripped-down bombers as they commenced their journeys toward Tokyo on April 18, 1942 — the original “tight squeeze.”

Epic Struggle

Today, the Florida citrus industry is engaged in its own epic struggle. We were surprised not by enemy bombers, but also by another sort of destruction that arrived via airborne transmission.
Like our nation in 1942, we are down, but we are not out.
As surely as Doolittle and his men knew that success was the only option, the Florida Department of Citrus, mirroring the resolve of growers across our great state, plans on winning this fight.
To get where we need to go, we — like Doolittle’s Raiders and the very industry we serve — must remain focused on essentials.
In the months to come, you will see continued evidence we are stripping away everything that isn’t mission-critical as we add fuel and firepower. Put another way: Programs that made sense when we were selling 240 million boxes may not make sense now.
The rest of Doolittle’s quote is perfect for our time. “It’s going to be a pretty tight squeeze,” he said, “But it’s all been worked out the best possible way.”

Plans For The Long Haul

Our priorities are clear. We know where we have to get, and we are loading up for the long haul — and for victory.
In the months ahead, I look forward to sharing details of the steps we are taking at the direction of the Florida Citrus Commission to be the best possible stewards of our industry’s legacy and to add the next exciting chapter. Among the changes you’ll notice are:

  • A realignment of our agency partnerships, to ensure we are utilizing those important resources efficiently and maximizing their impact;
  • Shifting additional resources into the Department’s own public relations programs;
  • Re-energized partnerships in the retail and foodservice space;
  • New staff members in key industry-facing positions; and
  • A refocused digital footprint.

We have a long way to go, but we have the pilots and the planes to get there.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories

CitrusUSDA Offers Crop Disaster Assistance For Fruit And Vegetable Growers
December 16, 2014
Free basic coverage plans and premium discounts available for new, underserved, and limited income farmers who had been ineligible for federal crop insurance. Read More
CitrusSouth Florida Takes Plunge With Major Expansion Of Water Storage Program
December 15, 2014
New ag land partnerships, including a $124 million deal with Alico, more than double the current holding capacity. Read More
CitrusApplications Now Being Accepted For Florida Specialty Crop Block Grants
December 12, 2014
$4.5 million available to help fund industry-enhancing projects. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Crop Forecast Update: So Far, So Good
December 10, 2014
USDA estimates hold steady for third month in a row. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Hall Of Fame Selects Class Of 2015
December 10, 2014
Three more industry stalwarts added to prestigious list. Read More
CitrusSurvey Shows Food Safety, GMOs Among Public-Issue Concerns For Floridians
December 9, 2014
Need for education clear as confusion, misperception rampant among results. Read More
CitrusProspects Perking Up For Florida Citrus In 2015 [Opinion]
December 5, 2014
Positive alignment of numerous programs give reason for optimism. Read More

The Latest

CitrusSouthwest Florida Citrus Bus Tour Yields Learning Oppor…
December 18, 2014
Find out what Florida Grower editor Frank Giles saw and heard during Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association's annual outing. Read More
CitrusStudy: Florida Citrus Valued At More Than $10 Billion
December 17, 2014
Industry continues to have large impact on the state’s economy. Read More
CitrusUSDA Offers Crop Disaster Assistance For Fruit And Vege…
December 16, 2014
Free basic coverage plans and premium discounts available for new, underserved, and limited income farmers who had been ineligible for federal crop insurance. Read More
CitrusSouth Florida Takes Plunge With Major Expansion Of Wate…
December 15, 2014
New ag land partnerships, including a $124 million deal with Alico, more than double the current holding capacity. Read More
CitrusApplications Now Being Accepted For Florida Specialty C…
December 12, 2014
$4.5 million available to help fund industry-enhancing projects. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Crop Forecast Update: So Far, So Good
December 10, 2014
USDA estimates hold steady for third month in a row. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Hall Of Fame Selects Class Of 2015
December 10, 2014
Three more industry stalwarts added to prestigious list. Read More
CitrusSurvey Shows Food Safety, GMOs Among Public-Issue Conce…
December 9, 2014
Need for education clear as confusion, misperception rampant among results. Read More
CitrusProspects Perking Up For Florida Citrus In 2015 [Opinio…
December 5, 2014
Positive alignment of numerous programs give reason for optimism. Read More
CitrusDemand For Florida Farmland Exceeding Supply 
December 5, 2014
High prices and water shortages in other parts of the country have potential buyers looking to the Sunshine State. Read More
CitrusTrio Of Acquisitions Make Alico Top Citrus Producer In …
December 3, 2014
With growth opportunity in its sights, Florida company pulls trigger on strategic purchases of three local operations totaling more than $360 million for nearly 30,000 acres. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Commission Adds New Member
December 1, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott appoints Dan Casper of Southern Gardens to replace Virginia Pena; reappoints two others. Read More
CitrusJuicy Subjects In Store For 2015 Florida Citrus Show
December 1, 2014
Day 1 of the annual two-day gathering in Ft. Pierce to provide a refresher course on HLB management strategies. Read More
CitrusGenNext Growers Webcast Calls For Action
December 1, 2014
Young leaders need to activate and motivate now more than ever. Read More
CitrusBe Willing To Take A ‘Wild Turkey’ Approach…
November 27, 2014
Editor Frank Giles says Florida Grower will be stepping up to the bully pulpit in 2015 addressing topics that impact the industry the most. Read More
CitrusNew Partnership To Expand ‘Fresh From Florida’ Foot…
November 26, 2014
Latest deal puts exclamation point on successful Asia marketing campaign. Read More
CitrusReasons Aplenty Florida Growers Should Feel Good Going …
November 24, 2014
Thanks to recent industry achievements, the next 12-month period is shaping up to be a year to remember --- fondly. Read More
CitrusIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immig…
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More