Can you believe fruit is being harvested and packed already? Where have the last three months gone? The 2012-2013 season is upon us and growers are eager to get fruit off the tree and to processing plants and packinghouses over the next nine months. Florida Citrus Mutual certainly had a busy summer. As the season gets into full swing, we will continue to monitor, pursue, and solve problems depending on what they require. It’s what we do.
I am excited for our industry. Some folks don’t share my optimism, but I refuse to get down on the tremendous group of people that grow Florida citrus or provide support services to them. Our products didn’t become household mainstays without positive thinking, ingenuity, and drive. These are the exact traits that will help us survive and ultimately thrive in these tough times.
The massive research effort we started five years ago to beat HLB is showing promise. Growers are hopeful that breakthroughs in several different fields such as RNAi, peptides, and antibiotics will yield results that can be put in the grove. And the ability of nutritional programs to preserve yields in the face of HLB also creates hope that growers can bridge the gap in the short term until longer term solutions become available. In fact, many growers I’ve talked to are considering expanding plantings in the near future spurred on by the developments in the laboratory.
I can tell you the Citrus Research and Development Foundation has done yeoman’s work efficiently managing the research effort on behalf of growers. This has been critical. We should expect more of the same in 2012-2013.
This season should deliver some finality on the Citrus Disease Research Trust Fund. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson shepherded the bill through the Senate Finance Committee in the late summer and we expect him and our other legislative friends to finish the process by season’s end.
In addition, over the next few months, several streams of funding should help offset grower assessments including grants from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Keep in mind, Gov. Rick Scott also is expected to place a citrus research appropriation in his budget and we believe the Florida legislature will support the investment. The various sources of funding will give growers much-needed assessment relief and allow us to steer more dollars to marketing. This brings me to an important point: Despite solid returns over the past few seasons, growers must not fall into a false sense of security. We cannot continue to rely on the supply-side situation to put upward pressure on fruit prices. At some point, consumption must stabilize and ultimately increase. I’m hopeful the new FDOC marketing programs can get us there. Plus, the brands are spending more on advertising. I am convinced orange juice will regain its footing as a staple in the American diet. The product is too good not to.
Winston Churchill once said, “For myself I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” Truer words have never been spoken. A positive attitude brings strength, energy, and initiative. In this environment, we need it all. As the 2012-2013 season begins, make a promise to yourself to stay positive and stay optimistic. Good things will happen.