The Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) Foundation Board held its initial meeting on July 31 at Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) headquarters in Bartow.
FCM President Tom Mitchell as well as FCM board members Glenn Beck and Mark Wheeler serve on the CRAFT board along with Harold Browning, Premier Citrus; John Updike Jr., Florida citrus grower; Phillip Rucks, Phillip Rucks Nursery; and Trevor Smith, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Division of Plant Industry. The CRAFT board members were appointed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Mark Wheeler was elected chairman and Glen Beck vice chairman. Kristen Carlson was hired as acting executive director/program manager, while Tamara Wood was hired as acting program assistant and elected as secretary. The board tabled the election of a treasurer until its next meeting.
FCM Executive Vice President/CEO Mike Sparks thanks everyone for their service on this most important project, and especially Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for her support and guidance as the CRAFT program moves forward. Her effort to efficiently set up a direct support organization under FDACS was critical to this project.
CRAFT will be funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Citrus Health Response Program and HLB Multi-Agency Coordination program and hopes to receive additional funding through the Citrus Research and Development Foundation. The goal is to execute 65 grower contracts covering 2,240 acres participating in the first-year activities. In subsequent years, an additional 3,000 acres will be part of the field trials/demonstrations.
The CRAFT Foundation Board also appointed a Technical Working Group that will assist and recommend specific program details. The committee consists of: Ozgur Batuman, Jim Graham, Greg Hodges, Richard Miranda, Kelly Morgan, Juan Carlos Motamayor, Patricia Ouimet, Brandon Page, Timothy Riley, Tim Rinehart, Michael Rogers, Brian Scully, Robert Shatters and Tim Widmer. The Technical Working Group met on Aug. 6 at FCM headquarters.
The CRAFT program is moving quickly and expects to release more details in early September. The CRAFT timetable has earmarked grower contracts to be executed in December and plantings to start soon afterwards. Keep in mind, this is a research project at its core. Therefore, participants are required to provide quarterly status reports.