Hall of Famer Sparks Credits Teams for Success

Ernie NeffCitrus

Mike Sparks

Mike Sparks stands by the newly unveiled leaf that bears his name on the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame tree.

Florida Citrus Mutual Chief Executive Officer Mike Sparks, inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame on March 10, lists a group of teams that contributed to his success. “You’ve got to look at the big groups, no one individual – the citrus commissioners, past executive directors at the Department of Citrus, professional staff, growers, Mutual’s board of directors, Mutual’s staff is second to none – all played part of the team. And I think that’s what I’m so proud of: To be able to work with different teams, and working together we really came up with some unbelievable, almost, results.”

Sparks also discusses the industry’s future, especially regarding HLB. “We’re seeing some breakthroughs. Short term, I think we’ll continue to see research behind the tractor … Not the ultimate solution, but it will keep the existing trees – and those that are being planted now – productive.”

Longer term, he says, “We’ve got to come up with the ultimate solution, and that by itself will be great. But we need more incentives to get the growers to replant … We’ve got to plant 30 million trees in the next 10 years just to get back to where we were before HLB. So incentives to the growers to replant, results needed from the researchers, and you’re going to see this industry right back where it always was – Florida’s keynote agricultural crop.”

Sparks also reacts to the March 9 citrus crop forecast, which trimmed 3 million boxes from the projected Florida orange crop. He says he is “maybe just a little disappointed” and adds, “Yes, we took another small reduction down. But it does not stop my optimism.”

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About the Author

Tacy Callies

Editor of Citrus Industry magazine