Research shows that abandoned citrus groves can harbor unwanted pests and citrus diseases. Therefore, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Bureau of Pest Eradication and Control is raising more awareness about its Abandoned Grove Initiative to help destroy those safe havens for deadly pests.
Callie Walker, chief of the FDACS Bureau of Pest Eradication and Control, says the Abandoned Grove Initiative is a wonderful program that has proven to be very successful. When the initiative was created in 2009, it allowed growers who were apart of the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) to remove their acres at their own expense. Then, they would receive an abandoned grove compliance agreement that would allow them to keep their greenbelt tax exemption for two years. After the two years were up, growers could renew their exemption for another two years. Walker says that model was successful, and growers took advantage of it.
However, in July 2016, the initiative changed courses. The initiative was put into state statute due to support from the industry. This changed some guidelines in the initiative. The grove still needs to be removed at the owner’s expense, but the exemption can now last for five years instead of two. Walker says the biggest change is the new guidelines allow growers to replant before their exemption time is completed. Growers must present their plans for replanting to their CHRP representative, but they can have active crops growing on the land.
Another guideline that was changed in the statute is that there is no renewal period. Once the five years of exemption are finished, there is no option to renew. After that period, the land goes back to whatever evaluation the property appraiser values at that time, whether the land is vacant, active or in the process of being replanted.
For more information, Walker encourages growers to reach out to their local CHRP offices, or visit the website. You can find a map of the CHRP offices here. If a grower would like to participate in the Abandoned Grove Initiative, a CHRP office can get the process started.
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