Florida Citrus Industry Conference Draws Record Crowd

Josh McGillAwards, Events, HLB Management

Citrus growers and industry stakeholders gathered in Bonita Springs last week for the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference. After being sidelined the previous two years due to COVID-19, the conference drew a record crowd of more than 500 registered attendees.

Citrus Industry Conference
From left, Mike Sparks, retiring executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual; Citrus Achievement Award winner Kristen Carlson; Matt Joyner, incoming executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual; and AgNet Media editor-in-chief Frank Giles pose with the trophy after the ceremony recognizing Carlson as this year’s award recipient.
Citrus Industry Conference

The event, hosted by Florida Citrus Mutual, was packed with educational programming and meetings for various industry groups. The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) held its June board meeting during the event. The much-anticipated meeting was the first after growers voted in favor of continuing a research order that allows growers to tax their production to fund research projects mostly aimed at finding solutions to HLB.

With the taxing mechanism confirmed, the CRDF board of directors debated, recommended and voted on the tax rate, which has been 3 cents per box (the maximum rate) for the past several years. After considerable discussion, the board recommended and voted that the rate be reduced to 2 cents per box. Board members noted this reduction in revenue (about 33%) will force CRDF to be laser-focused in directing funds toward research projects that will have near-term results in the fight against HLB.

The 2022 Citrus Achievement Award trophy was presented to Kristen Carlson during the conference’s Industry Luncheon. Carlson played a critical role in developing the structure for the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program. CRAFT seeks to collect standardized and usable data on grower approaches to mitigate HLB in their groves. It also is responsible for nearly 5,000 acres of new citrus plantings in Florida. For more than 20 years, the award, which is sponsored by Florida Citrus Mutual, has honored individuals who have been outstanding advocates on behalf of the state’s citrus industry.

The conference’s educational program provided growers with updates on ways to address HLB right now or in the near-term. Two private companies provided updates on progress to make their products commercially available to growers. One product (Vismax) is a novel peptide material that triggers a citrus tree’s defense against HLB. The other product (ReMedium) is a formulation of oxytetracycline and a mechanism to inject (FLexInject) the antibiotic into citrus tree trunks to kill the HLB bacteria. More on these products and other educational program highlights are coming in future articles. 

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