Florida citrus growers will be asked to vote in a May referendum whether to maintain the Florida Research Order. The order was established in 1992 to support efforts by the industry — through the creation of the Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council (FCPRAC) — to develop solutions to production challenges.
The research order has a six-year cycle and is subject to renewal upon request by the industry and a vote of support by those in the industry. The current order will end Aug. 1. In the May referendum, growers will be asked whether they want to preserve their ability to assess themselves on an annual basis for the purpose of helping fund citrus research.
Current law allows an assessment of no more than three pennies per box to fund, and/or help leverage outside funding for, citrus research. The creation of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) in 2009 helped the industry grow beyond FCPRAC. In addition to managing research, CRDF has the additional ability to fund and support product delivery innovations resulting from sponsored research projects.
Every year, the CRDF board of directors meets in June to recommend to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) how much, if any, of the three pennies to levy. FDACS makes the final decision on the assessment rate, but historically has deferred to a CRDF recommendation.
Growers will be asked to vote during the referendum whether to keep this assessment mechanism in place. They will not be voting on whether to assess three pennies (or any amount, for that matter), only whether to keep the mechanism in place for the assessment if the industry so desires.
Having the assessment mechanism in place does not necessarily mean that the CRDF board will recommend an assessment in any given year or that FDACS will impose one. Growers will also not be voting on whether there is, in fact, a CRDF in operation because that is established in statute.
In the referendum, each grower entity will be entitled to one vote. For passage, 65% of those voting must vote in favor, and that 65% must constitute 50% of the acreage of those voting. A complete information guide to the referendum is available at an FDACS website under the Box Tax Referendum heading.
Source: Highlands County Citrus Growers Association
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