Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) directors on Sept. 22 had a lengthy discussion about a nutrition research proposal from Rhuanito (Johnny) Ferrarezi. Ferrarezi is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences assistant professor at the Indian River Research and Education Center.
Because of budgetary concerns expressed by CRDF, Ferrarezi cut $158,000 from his original proposed project budget of $532,000. “He made a good faith attempt to respond to our concern (about costs), which we appreciated,” said Rick Dantzler, CRDF’s chief operating officer. Still, CRDF deferred a decision on the project until October.
Dantzler said CRDF deferred funding the project to ensure it has enough money for existing projects as well as others it might want to pursue. One budgetary concern arose when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently instructed state agencies to hold back approximately 8.5 percent of their budgets. CRDF receives significant funding from the state, which is struggling to balance its budget because of COVID-19. Dantzler said an 8.5 percent reduction in state funds to CRDF would equal approximately $680,000.
CRDF also wanted to wait on the Oct. 9 citrus crop forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before committing to Ferrarezi’s project. Some CRDF funding comes from an assessment on boxes of fruit Florida growers produce. (Learn more about that assessment here.) A low crop forecast could reduce CRDF’s budget, currently a little over $12 million, which funds 53 projects.
Dantzler emphasized that CRDF is seeking “hard deliverables” from the projects it funds. He described hard deliverables as “something which a grower can use in the short- to medium-term” to cope with HLB. “Our percentage of applied research is up to about 60 percent (of the budget) now,” he said. He defined applied research as “learning how to live with it (HLB),” versus basic research, which he described as research leading to a cure for HLB.
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