Citrus Industry Priorities Highlighted at GCGA Annual Meeting

Josh McGill Events, Legislative

Citrus industry growers and allied members of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association (GCGA) gathered in Fort Myers last week for the association’s annual meeting. Matt Joyner, executive vice president/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, recapped Florida’s 2022 legislative session and touched on some other priorities during his address to the group.

Citrus Growers
Mike Sparks (right) accepts a fishing rod from GCGA executive director Steve Smith.

Joyner said the legislative session was a strong one for the state’s citrus sector. Millions of dollars were allocated for several important programs and projects.

One of the bigger bills for citrus was SB 1000. The legislation allows customized fertilizer rate tailoring for specific groves. These rate recommendations must be made by a 4R certified crop advisor. For citrus Best Management Practices (BMP) Program participants, this will help growers stay in compliance with the program while new nutrient recommendations are developed by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

UF/IFAS sets the nutrient application recommendations that the state BMP program is based upon. SB 1000 instructs the university to conduct new research to update fertilizer guidance for citrus.

Joyner also touched on the Donaldson citrus variety, which has created buzz within the industry due to its apparent enhanced tolerance to HLB.

“There is a desire to ramp up budwood production on the Donaldson and make it available to growers,” Joyner said. “We were successful at getting $3 million (from the Legislature) that will help offset the cost of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for curating additional greenhouse space so they can ramp up budwood for that purpose. In addition, another $1 million was allocated to the Florida Department of Citrus to help push this project forward.”

Joyner also discussed ongoing talks with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on lowering the Brix standard for orange juice from 10.5% to 10%. This season, fruit often struggled to meet the current standard. Processors have indicated they can make the 10% level work without a noticeable decline in quality.

Joyner also announced Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has legislation prepared to pass a law that would instruct FDA to lower the standard to 10%. Joyner said the industry is hopeful the bipartisan legislation will pass.

Finally, GCGA members and staff used the occasion to honor Mike Sparks, who is retiring from his job as executive vice president/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, for his dedicated industry service. Knowing Sparks is an avid fisherman, GCGA presented him with an engraved fishing rod rather than a plaque (which he has amassed many of over the years).


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