Crime Fighting, Property Values Are Highlands Issues

Ernie NeffCitrus


Ned Hancock

Ned Hancock, who recently stepped down as president of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA), discusses key issues the association faced in the past year and some coming in the future.

Hancock says a major accomplishment last year came in concert with new Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman. Blackman “has made a significant commitment to patrol the agricultural community and add a lot of agricultural deputies,” Hancock says.

“We have worked very heartily with Raymond McIntyre, our Highlands County property appraiser,” Hancock adds. “And he (McIntyre) is bending over backward to work with citrus growers to collect data, to do everything he can, to make sure that their taxes are as low as they can possibly be. And I think that’s a direct result of the association’s hard work with both of those agencies over a long period of time.”

Looking ahead, Hancock says, “We’ll have growers that are trying to possibly expand again. I feel a sense of optimism in Highlands County.” Issues for those who are likely to replant citrus will include young grove valuations and “how do we work with our local government to make sure that we’ve got appropriate housing for maybe farm laborers,” Hancock says.

Hancock gives HCCGA Executive Director Ray Royce much credit for the association’s accomplishments.

Billy Barben succeeded Hancock as HCCGA president.

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large