Citrus Research Progress Saved From Going off the Rails

Citrus Research Progress Saved From Going off the Rails

The relationship between the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) and the University of Florida (UF) seemed to be headed for split following a recent dust-up with school’s board of trustees. That was up until a recent agreement was hammered out to save the arrangement.

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The Foundation is a direct service organization (DSO) affiliated with the university but set up as a legally separated, nonprofit entity. It was founded in 2009 to collect and funnel box tax dollars, paid by growers and other funds, toward research primarily aimed at seeking solutions to citrus. Since its inception, it has directed about 64% of its grants to UF/IFAS, with other funds allocated to other universities and research institutions.

Recently, the UF board of trustees sought changes in how the DSO would operate, requiring all research dollars be directed to UF/IFAS, and that the board would have final approval on proposed research projects. According to leadership at the CRDF, that plan was a non-starter.

Rick Dantzler, Chief Operating Officer of CRDF, said that would have likely led Foundation to split with the university due to the rule changes.

However, the new agreement essentially means the DSO will continue to operate as it has since 2009.

“CRDF [under the new agreement] will continue operating as it has since 2009, and we will seek clarification from the state legislature during the next session that we have the authority to do so,” Dantzler said. “UF would like that to be made clearer in the statute so they can be more comfortable with our funding research with institutions other than UF/IFAS, which is fine with us. So, CRDF will continue to award research contracts for the best proposals regardless of where they come from.”

Dantzler added the university has requested authority to review research agreements for form, not scientific judgment. CRDF would not have a problem with this type of review.

“We’ll also discuss how to add a member of the UF board of trustees to the CRDF board,” he said. “We don’t object to this, but we are currently limited to 13 board members, and that’s how many we have serving now. I’m sure we can work it out, though.”