This is the fifth of six installments featuring Florida Grower’s 2012 Citrus Achievement Award winner Vic Story addressing all things citrus. This month, the president of Lake Wales-based The Story Companies provides his thoughts on the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) and the sharply increasing cost of production.
Q: How would you rate the work of CRDF in managing research funds and priorities?
A: I don’t hear anything but good things about how CRDF has managed our citrus research. A lot of people have expressed the opinion that researchers should be working on things that are more short-and mid-term. In other words, things that can benefit us in the next five to 10 years. I believe CRDF has struck a good balance between the shorter and longer term projects. There are short-range actions that already are paying off in controlling the psyllid better.
I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Harold Browning (CRDF chief operating officer). He is a very practical guy and we are fortunate to have him back serving the industry. And, we have good people serving on the CRDF board. Their budgets have not gotten out of hand, and they have been good stewards of our money.
Q: A recent study has shown citrus production costs on average have more than doubled, would you agree?
A: I would suggest to you they have tripled in the last number of years in our particular case. When you look at canker and keeping it under control, we are spending another $50 to $75 per acre on materials alone. Then you take into account what we are spending for psyllid control. It adds up. I had hoped we’d get a break on fertilizer prices this fall, but they are just as high as in the spring. Fuel is up and it was a fairly dry year overall, so irrigation costs are up. All that together places our costs in the upper range of what was listed in the study conducted by UF/IFAS.
The good news is the price for juice is strong and the outlook is positive to remain that way. Currently, the prices are such that we can afford to do a good job taking care of our groves. I think it would be a big mistake to have anything less than a first-class psyllid control program, and the same goes with canker. The challenge as I see it is growing as much fruit as I possibly can. That’s how I see reducing costs — maximizing production.