On July 21, 2016, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) visited the Lakeland area to tour a citrus grove affected by citrus greening. Sen. Rubio was joined by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. They visited Gapway Groves in Auburndale to meet growers and industry leaders to discuss the grave problem facing Florida’s citrus industry.
Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) urged Senate leaders of both parties to make citrus greening a priority in tax legislation expected to be considered by Congress later this year. Specifically, they called for the passage of the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act (S. 2346), a bipartisan and bicameral bill introduced by Nelson and co-sponsored by Rubio, which would allow citrus growers to expense the costs of equipment at the time of purchase, instead of the current 14-year depreciation schedule.
“Florida’s signature crop is in the fight for its life,” said Putnam. He talked about the “death spiral” that the Florida citrus industry would fall into if growers quit replanting. “While scientists are looking for answers, growers need incentive to hang on and continue to replant so that we don’t lose citrus trees, which reduces production, which causes processing plants to close, which causes people to be laid off,” he stated.
Putnam said that’s why the announcement by Rubio and Nelson, about immediate expensing to be able to improve the tax treatment of citrus groves, is key.
“Let’s get rid of the federal government’s disincentive to replant to save an industry,” said Putnam. “That is what their leadership on this issue is going to mean to citrus growers up and down the state of Florida.”
Putnam explained that having the federal tax code reflect the urgency of the situation so growers will replant and invest in the future while researchers work on the next wave of treatments, and potentially even the cure, is going to mean all the difference for the state.
“It’s a $10 billion industry, so whether you’re a citrus-producing county or not, the fact that “citrus is king” in Florida for agricultural commodities helps make Florida a better place to live, work and play,” Putnam said.
Rubio said that both he and Nelson are hoping that the provision will be in the tax code for 2017 “so that next year as growers are replanting, they will be able to write off the cost of doing it on their taxes.”
“If we don’t have replanting, we’re going to lose the industry,” Rubio concluded.
Senator Marco Rubio’s remarks:
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam’s remarks:
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