As the voting period for the Florida Citrus Research Order winds down, it is important that growers have a clear understanding what the vote is for and the role the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) plays in the process.
Rick Dantzler, chief operating officer of CRDF, says this clarification is important to be sure growers have the correct information, as some information recently circulating is not accurate and leads growers to believe that CRDF actually assesses the box tax that funds citrus research.
“The CRDF does not assess the box tax,” Dantzler said. “By Florida law, CRDF serves in an advisory capacity to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). CRDF’s role is purely advisory. FDACS is not compelled to follow CRDF’s recommendation.”
Dantzler added this vote is not about the amount of the tax, which now stands at 3 cents per box of production. The vote is simply whether or not to keep the mechanism in place that would allow growers to tax themselves to fund research priorities.
“Regarding the recommended rate (up to three cents per box), CRDF meets every year in June with its Advisory Committee to decide what rate — if any — to recommend to FDACS for the upcoming year,” Dantzler said. “It is not required to recommend three cents of tax. Since CRDF is an organization created to serve Florida citrus growers and that is controlled by Florida citrus growers, it will recommend what it believes the industry desires. The meeting in June is a public meeting and growers are encouraged to attend and express their opinions regarding what CRDF recommends.”
CRDF’s leadership is largely made up by growers. Ten of 13 CRDF board members are Florida citrus growers. Thirteen of the 17 members of the Research Management Committee — the primary research committee of CRDF — are Florida growers.
“Growers on our board and committees have been hurt by HLB just as all other growers in the industry,” Dantzler said. “These growers have the same interest in research projects that provide helpful results as all other growers. We also subject all proposals to peer review by scientists from across the country to try to make good funding solutions. We wish as much as anyone that HLB was behind us, but it hasn’t been for a lack of effort.”
Dantzler also encouraged growers to consider what happens if the Citrus Research Order is voted down. “When deciding how you vote on whether to continue the mechanism for self-assessment, if you are frustrated with CRDF, please try to separate that from the wisdom of having the self-assessment in place,” he said. “An industry having a means for assessing itself to address research needs is a tremendous asset. It precludes you from having to depend on the government for funding. And when you must go to the government for funding, it makes a huge difference with legislators and members of Congress that the industry is putting up funding. It shows our industry has skin in the game. If you eliminate the mechanism, what is the realistic possibility that it or anything like it would ever be approved again? Probably not great.”
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