Letter to the Editor: A Citrus Industry Ombudsperson

Tacy CalliesLetter to the Editor

By Bill Castle
University of Florida professor emeritus

Bill Castle

Bill Castle

During a recent breakfast with an industry friend, I asked: What is your outlook on the future of our industry? His positive reply was direct and immediate. He expanded on that reply by revealing a realistic confidence in the ability of growers to plant and grow young trees as supported by his own observations and experience. He also remarked that there are changes in nutritional approaches that preserve the integrity of citrus trees and the good prospects of new HLB-tolerant scions and rootstocks. He also agreed that, for whatever reason, there still are good-looking groves around Florida.

Are there other reasons to be optimistic? Undoubtedly there are other reasons. But are we systematically searching for them, dialoging about them and using them to counterpunch negativity? Virtually everything one may read or hear is negative because, after all, we are dealing with a tough disease. Nevertheless, there is occasional good news about new strategies, new technologies and funding.

Not only is there a need for dialog, but a need for an ombudsperson. According to the International Ombudsman Association, an ombudsperson:
• Works with individuals and groups to explore and assist them in determining options to help with concerns
• Brings attention to systemic concerns
• Listens and understands issues while remaining neutral with respect to the facts
• Assists in reframing issues and developing and helping evaluate options

Imagine having one independent, objective person working within the industry whose primary responsibility is to seek and promote those positive, but realistic aspects regarding the state of HLB and our industry. Preferably, this person would be a grower.

There are many ways this person could go about fulfilling the job that would be useful in advancing the welfare of growers. Here is a starter list:
• First and foremost, this person would represent the citrus industry.
• Be the clearinghouse and sounding board for all sorts of things like questions regarding research or novel ideas about managing HLB disease. Input could be received from anyone.
• Review questions and suggestions to conduct outreach and confirm possible follow-up research
• Periodically visit with appropriate folks from the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Citrus Research and Development Foundation to compile upbeat statements on their respective activities

We all recognize our present situation. Is it important to have a positive voice reminding us from time to time that we can do this? I think so!

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