Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is meeting with citrus growers in Lakeland today and will likely hear how citrus greening and the Oriental fruit fly are taking a big bite out of their crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting a Florida orange crop of 80 million boxes for the 2015- 16 season. That’s 17 percent lower than last season.
Growers were expecting a lower yield because of HLB, or citrus greening disease, said Florida Citrus Mutual’s Communications Director Andrew Meadows.
He said Nelson helped get federal research dollars in the last federal farm bill to help fight greening.
“He also is helping us with a measure to tweak the IRS code that will allow growers to immediately expense new plantings of trees,” said Meadows.
“We’re trying to use that as a stimulant or a carrot to get more trees in the ground,” he said.
Meadows said more trees are needed so there’s enough fruit to support the processing plants, packing houses and other businesses that rely on citrus. And he said it’s important for federal and state regulators to keep other citrus diseases out of Florida and the United States.
Despite the problems caused by greening, he said many growers remain hopeful about the industry.
“We’ve got the pessimists out there, we’ve got optimists out there that see this as an opportunity because prices are up, even in this environment they feel they have the advanced production techniques to raise citrus and keep yields up even when facing this disease,” he said.
The economic impact of Florida’s citrus industry is $10.7 billion annually.