Citrus grower taxes supporting Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) programs this season will be 7 cents per box for processed oranges and fresh grapefruit – the two most utilized fruits. Those historically low rates were proposed early in 2016 by 12 large Florida citrus growers and adopted by the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) on October 26. Other per-box grower assessments will be 7 cents for all specialty fruit and 5 cents for fresh oranges. The Department of Citrus budget will be $22.6 million – down $9 million from last season.
FCC Chairman Ellis Hunt and FDOC Executive Director Shannon Shepp discuss the rates and the budget and the process of reducing both.
Hunt says the FCC “promised that we were going to take a very in-depth analysis and study it (the grower proposal), make sure that we could achieve those results while keeping the Department of Citrus intact and functioning … We did not want to make an immediate knee-jerk reaction; we wanted to thoroughly assess that we could get there and still serve the growers as is our mission.”
“The one thing that I heard over and over from every grower that I spoke with … they all value the Department of Citrus,” Hunt continues. “Every one of them told me they definitely wanted to see the department stay intact and continue the mission on their behalf.” He says most growers are small producers, and that “together we are much more powerful and strong.”
Shepp adds: “We understand what the challenges are for growers. We understand that the cost of producing citrus has gone up. We wanted to make sure that we could make as high an impact as we could, and we think part of that was creating a tax reduction.”
Growers who requested the lower tax rates early in 2016 noted their production costs had increased significantly because of HLB.
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