Highlights From Highlands Citrus Growers Meeting

Jim Rogers Citrus, Florida

Growers and industry stakeholders recently gathered in Sebring, Florida, to celebrate the 32nd annual meeting of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA).

Growers
Members of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association gathered for their annual meeting.

LEADERS ELECTED
New HCCGA officers and directors were elected. Officers for the 2022 board of directors include:

  • Emma Ezell, president 
  • Hank Crutchfield, vice president
  • Charlie Wilson, treasurer
  • Aaron Nelson, secretary

New board members are Joe Collins, Billy Barben, Jarred Eddy and Stan Perry Jr.

ISSUES ADDRESSED
During the meeting, speakers addressed some of the important issues confronting growers in Highlands County.

Scott Angle, University of Florida vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), was the keynote speaker during the banquet. He noted his two biggest priorities are the fight against HLB and updating fertilizer recommendations for citrus and other crops.

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Ray Royce

Ray Royce, HCCGA executive director, shared hopeful sentiments when introducing Angle to attendees. “Every significant agricultural meeting I have been to in the past year, I always see Dr. Angle is there. So, I know he is out hearing what people are saying across the agricultural spectrum in this state,” Royce said. “He has made outreach a central part of what he has done. He is working with us and trying to help our industry and agriculture in general.”

Angle said everything he and UF/IFAS does must start with the premise that farmers need to be profitable to stay in business. Without that, no amount of research or other actions matter. He added he has heard from growers how critical the situation with HLB is and that research must be dedicated to solutions.

“My number one priority is to make sure Florida farmers can make a decent living so they can stay in business,” Angle said. “We have a lot of environmental issues in this state and that has been a major focus for UF/IFAS and other groups in Florida. But the worst thing that can happen in Florida for the environment is for farmers and ranchers to go out of business. Everything that comes behind that is often much worse and much more deleterious on the environment. You are protectors of the environment, cleaning the water, taking the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and providing wildlife habitat. If you don’t keep doing that, this state is going to have some significant problems.”

Growers
J. Scott Angle
Photo by Preston Keres

Angle noted that another major priority will be updating nutrient recommendations from UF/IFAS for citrus and other crops. Some of those recommendations are decades old. While they were accurate when developed, he said, they don’t reflect current practices and the impact of HLB on citrus trees.

“It is going to be difficult for you to stay in business unless we refine our fertilizer rates,” he said. “That is going to take a couple years. I wish we started five years ago, but we didn’t. That creates this conundrum of what do we do in between that time. What do we do with these trees infected with HLB? This is not fast data. Sen. Ben Albritton (FL-56 District) is working on a mechanism between today and the future when we have better recommendations.”

That mechanism is Senate Bill 1000, which allows agricultural producers to utilize “rate tailoring” for fertilizer applications developed in concert with a 4R Certified Crop Advisor with a 4R Nutrient Management Specialty certification. In order to utilize the rate tailoring option, the producer must be enrolled in the commodity-appropriate best management practices program through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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About the Author

Frank Giles

Editor-in-Chief, AgNet Media Publications

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