Opinion: A Unified Front Needed For Citrus Disease Research

With greening projects in progress for nearly one quarter, we’ve completed another milestone in the citrus disease research funding process begun in early 2008 by the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC). The Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) has funded 91 citrus disease research projects totaling $13.2 million. Thirteen additional projects, representing $2.8 million, have been funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

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Research Management Partnership

The citrus industry has partnered with the University of Florida to create a Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) that will oversee scientific projects and manage citrus disease research dollars.

The foundation unifies the efforts of the FCC, FDOC, and University of Florida, along with Florida Citrus Mutual and the FDACS to combat citrus disease. The partnership with UF was encouraged by Sen. JD Alexander as an effective vehicle to expend and manage potential for state general revenue dedicated to disease research.

The not-for-profit organization will be governed by 13 industry leaders appointed by the partnering organizations. They include:

• Bobby Barben, Barben Fruit Company
• Wes Brumback, Florida Citrus Commissioner, TRB Groves
• Joe Davis Jr., Davis Citrus Management
• Dan Gunter, ag-business consultant
• Tom Jerkins, Blue Goose Growers
• Joe Joyce, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
• Ricke Kress, Southern Gardens Citrus
• Marty McKenna, McKenna and Associates Citrus
• Mark McLellan, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
• Craig Meyer, FDACS
• Jerry Newlin, Orangeco of Florida
• Wayne Simmons, LaBelle Fruit Company
• Bob Stambaugh, Sharit, Bunn & Chilton, PA law firm

Thirty-seven research projects will be conducted through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences under the direction of preeminent citrus scientific experts here in our own state. In addition, we have sought out experts from every corner of the world to address this disease problem that has global ramifications and threats.

Ongoing Effort

Almost all of the research projects will take several years to complete. The FCC is committed to continue the funding in the 2009-2010 FDOC operating budget, knowing that the marketing programs will necessarily suffer. Florida Citrus Mutual is mounting a tremendous effort to secure federal resources to fill in this funding gap, and for the sake of suffering grower prices, I wish Mike Sparks and his board Godspeed.

As we enter a new fiscal year, FDOC will continue to support a sustainable future for the Florida citrus industry by balancing critical disease research funding with vital marketing programs to maintain consumer demand for our products. The Florida Legislature recently confirmed this institution’s vital role in supporting the citrus industry, especially during challenging times. Bills reauthorizing the FCC/FDOC were sponsored by Representative Denise Grimsley and Senator Charlie Dean, and unanimously approved by both chambers. This action shows that growers are not the only ones committed to ensuring that the citrus industry remains a key component of Florida’s agriculture for many years to come.