Looking Ahead to the Future of Florida Citrus

Bob Behr rocking out as Citrus Achiement Award winner

Dr. Bob Behr appreciates the challenges citrus growers face and believes the future is bright for the Sunshine State’s signature crop.
Photo by Frank Giles

This is the final installment of four special features honoring the 2019 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner, Bob Behr, CEO of Florida’s Natural Growers and Citrus World. Special thanks to UPL USA for sponsoring the Citrus Achievement Award program.

What are your impressions of the earlier crop estimates, and what are you hearing from your growers in terms of how the crop looks?  

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Behr: Crop estimates seem to be in line with what we are hearing from the field — the 2019-2020 crop should be similar in size to the 2018-2019 crop. Many groves look pretty good and have quite a bit of fruit. And grapefruit is clearly impacted by greening and will not have much of a crop.

Editor’s note: Response made prior to Hurricane Dorian’s impact and USDA’s initial estimate.

What are three things the Florida citrus industry must do to ensure a successful future?

Behr: (1) We must solve greening or, at the very least, learn how to profitably grow citrus in a greening environment. (2) We must grow the demand for Florida citrus products — innovation and marketing are essential elements for demand growth. (3) Finally, we all must work cooperatively to assure the collective success of Florida’s citrus industry.

What are a couple of your fond memories from over the years working in the citrus industry?

Behr: I met my spouse (Sarah) early on in my citrus industry career. Being part of the Florida’s Natural Team for the past 25 years and helping the cooperative and its member growers achieve success.

Do you believe in the future of Florida citrus?  

Behr: I do believe in the future of Florida’s citrus industry. I am a grove owner and have recently planted new trees, including Valencias, ‘w-Murcotts,’ and lemons. I’m either nuts or believe in the industry’s future. I’m betting on the latter. I’m planning to plant grapefruit in the coming year.