New CRDF Leader Discusses HLB Battle

Ernie Neff CRDF, HLB Management


Rick Dantzler

Moments after being chosen on July 24 as the next chief operations officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), Rick Dantzler declared the industry will “whip” HLB.

He chose Aug. 15 as his first day of work so he can meet many growers at Citrus Expo. “I wanted my first day on the job to be with citrus growers,” he says. “All of this is about serving the citrus grower, or what’s the point?”

Dantzler is a Winter Haven lawyer who served decades ago in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. More recently, he was the state executive director of the Farm Service Agency under President Obama. “But I got drained with the rest of the swamp when President Trump came in,” he says.

“I’m going to do what I’m calling in my own mind a listening tour,” Dantzler says. “I’d like to visit with as many growers as I can” as well as with the boards of grower organizations, scientists and CRDF directors.

“One thing I know: We can’t be afraid of the truth, and if something is not working, we need to have the fortitude to walk away from it and find something that will,” says Dantzler.

Regarding his vow that the industry will whip HLB, he says, “We should be able to do this more easily than it seems to be happening. I’m as confounded as anyone about why we seem to have made so little progress.” But Dantzler, who declares himself a “passionate advocate for Florida agriculture, especially the citrus industry,” says, “We’re going to return the industry back to its former days of glory.”

Dantzler will succeed John Arthington, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences administrator who has been serving as interim CRDF chief operations officer since this spring. Arthington took over temporarily after long-time COO Harold Browning resigned to join a private company seeking an HLB solution.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large