Industry Split on OJ Marketing Order

Ernie NeffMarketing

marketing order

A Florida citrus Industry Review Committee has divergent opinions about a possible federal marketing order for orange juice (OJ), Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks reported after the group met last week.

“There were some that wanted to roll up their sleeves and continue work. There were a couple of committee members that had heard enough” and didn’t want to proceed, Sparks said.  

“There was no motion” regarding a marketing order, but there was general agreement that the group would continue learning about and discussing the issue, Sparks said.

Sparks said “50 different grower stakeholder participants” attended the Bartow meeting in person or virtually, including all 14 committee members. The committee is composed of two members each from the Florida Citrus Commission, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Citrus Processors Association, Gulf Citrus Growers Association, Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, Indian River Citrus League and Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association.

The meeting featured presentations about federal marketing orders and industry economics by former Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) executive director Dan Gunter, FDOC economist Marisa Zansler and FDOC consultant Ron Ward. Ward, a retired University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economist, is an expert on federal marketing orders and has addressed several industry gatherings discussing the issue in years past.

Sparks said the group was told that OJ marketing dollars can be greatly increased with a federal marketing order versus FDOC promotional programs. That’s because all U.S. producers of oranges going into OJ, as well as U.S. OJ importers, would contribute to marketing costs. But a federal marketing order for OJ would not allow use of the word “Florida” in promotions. That’s a downside for those who think Florida identification has merit in marketing.

Some who want a federal marketing order cite what is commonly called the “free-rider” issue. It’s called that because FDOC advertising, paid for by Florida growers, benefits both Florida growers and imported OJ. The imported OJ gets a “free ride” on the FDOC marketing programs, they say. “But is the free rider … as important to the Florida citrus grower as the loss of the Florida identity?” Sparks asked, posing a major consideration in the marketing order discussions.

The committee has no future meetings scheduled, but Sparks believes it will meet again this season. “For those that are looking forward to a federal marketing order, we’re a long way away,” Sparks said. “For those that have heard enough; no, we’re not there (ready to stop). There’s still more review and investigation to do.”

Even if the Florida industry ultimately seeks a federal order, it’s not just Florida’s call. All other growers of oranges for juice, as well as OJ importers, would vote in a referendum on such an order. The referendum would require “at least 51 percent of the growers and 51 percent of the volume” of oranges going into OJ to vote affirmatively, Sparks said. He added that if 51 percent voted for an order in a referendum, the measure would still have to be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “My personal thought is, you’d want to look for substantial support for the order to pass. If you have 49 percent opposition to start, that’s not a very good start.”

See a previous report on the Industry Review Committee and the federal marketing order.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large