Florida Citrus Mutual President John Barben summarized Mutual’s efforts at the state and federal levels during the recent Highlands County Citrus Growers Association annual meeting in Sebring.
“We talked a little bit about going after our (state legislative) funding for this year – for CRDF (Citrus Research and Development Foundation), for New Varieties (Development and Management Corp.) – trying to get the recurring dollars that we got last year under the budget for the Florida Department of Citrus.
“At (Washington,) D.C., we’re working on the new grove planting bill where you can expense it in one year, versus having to amortize it. And we’ve got the Farm Bill that’s going to be coming up. They’re starting work on that for 2018. We’ve had meetings with all the other regional groups … everybody sitting down and saying, ‘OK, what programs do you all envision that we may be able to get in the Farm Bill that’s going to help the citrus grower?’
“And the other big issue is that they (growers) need to know that we’re on top of the adverse wage effect that just went up 4.5 percent this last year for H-2A workers. It’s a real cost to the growers, and if we can do something about that under the Trump administration, that’ll be a big saving for the Florida citrus grower.” The H-2A guestworker program allows agricultural employers to hire temporary workers from other countries. Many Florida citrus harvesters are H-2A workers. The adverse wage effect is a tool the government uses to determine how much H-2A workers must be paid.
Florida Citrus Mutual is the large, statewide association of Florida citrus growers. It is the lead organization in seeking funding for research, marketing, regulatory and other efforts from the state and federal governments. Regional citrus organizations, such as the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, help in those efforts but focus more on local issues.
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