June signals the official start of summer, and it also features the annual meetings of two of Florida’s largest commodities: The Florida Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention and the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference. Such conventions, conferences and meetings offer industry participants the opportunity to learn, set policy, network and more. No doubt, attendees to the annual meetings of both important industries in Florida agriculture will have a lot to see, do and discuss.Read More
Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) introduced the Fresh From Florida campaign a few years ago to promote Florida-grown products. The program has been a hit, and it’s set to expand; Florida’s up-and-coming peaches just may be one of the newest items to get the star treatment, according to Darica Smith, the division’s director of marketing, in an article published in The Packer.
As you already know, it’s very common to have non-uniform tree growth and fruit yield. Many of you already implement effective strategies to handle this problem. We want citrus farmers to have the right tools to manage non-uniform growth, increase grove productivity, reduce waste, and maintain high profits.
There’s no denying that the current state of the citrus industry in Florida is concerning. Ten years of citrus greening due to the HLB bacteria have whittled citrus yields down year after year and now the most recent USDA forecasts put the2015-2016 citrus crop at 50 percent of the crop yield from a decade ago. However, the many producers in the citrus industry have decided to weather the storm until a cure or viable treatment is found, refusing to lose hope in the industry.
The Sunshine State has always been about citrus, and with the dark cloud of HLB— citrus greening— hanging over the industry for the last 10 years, it will surely be a main topic of conversations and presentations alike at the 2016 Florida Citrus Show. Held on January 27th through the 28th in Fort Pierce, Florida, the show narrowly focused on citrus greening and other issues affecting the citrus industry.
With the USDA’s most recent Florida Orange Crop Estimate at a troubling 69 million, there’s no doubt that Florida citrus growers face some tough questions. As a result of citrus greening (or HLB), the industry’s harvest has reduced more than 50 percent over the past decade. Any way you slice it, that’s a big cut, and for some growers, that cut goes so deep that it’s time to ask whether resetting trees is worth the investment or not.
It’s rare today to read an article or column about Florida citrus without seeing a reference to citrus greening (Huanglongbing, or HLB), the tree disease that has seriously compromised citrus production all across the state since it was first found in Florida, near Homestead, in August 2005.
The citrus industry is a huge money-generating, job-creating industry.
The Florida citrus industry alone generates a $9 billion annual economic impact and employs nearly 76,000 people. So, huge is an understatement.
Given its impact, it’s no wonder why the industry is in a state of panic over the on-going citrus greening epidemic – a devastating citrus disease that continues to expand without the promise of a cure. This disease significantly threatens the industry and the thousands of jobs that rely on it. What’s more, it also has the potential to impact consumers, as it could hike up fruit and juice prices if proper action isn’t taken.
As this fast-growing disease continues to wreak havoc on the industry at large, and potentially consumers, funding is becoming more and more essential, as it supports research, management, and monitoring strategies, among other things.
That’s why the recent announcement of funds specifically intended to combat the disease comes as a major relief to the industry. Over $1.5 million in funding is now set aside to better Florida, Texas, and California’s ability to manage populations of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) — the pest that is responsible for infecting citrus trees — on a greater scale. Urban locations where citrus trees grow in yards and organic orchards will also be covered by this special funding.
To further aid the citrus greening battle, three new members were recently appointed to serve on the citrus disease subcommittee, which advises the Secretary of Agriculture on citrus research, extension, and development priorities; consults and collaborates with the USDA; and offers recommendations for citrus disease research and extension strategies.
All good, promising news for the industry!
Need additional funding to support your citrus operation? Bankers South is proud to be the only ag lending company in the Southeast authorized to offer AgAmerica Conventional Real Estate Loans. Interest rates for these loans often beat all other agriculture loan programs and cover all facets of farming, including citrus operations. When it’s time to plant your next row crop or expand your citrus groves, these ag loans are an excellent choice.
Citrus operations are facing many present-day challenges.
Some are traditional challenges including:
- Canopy productivity management.
- Managing crop yield for insects, drop, and weather.
- Efficient management of grove culture.
Others are recent, non-traditional challenges including:
- Coping with the demands of added operations, capital, and operating costs due to the HLB citrus “greening” epidemic.
Citrus greening, a devastating disease that threatens to destroy the commercial citrus industry, poses a major threat to all citrus operations. Combined with the traditional threats to the industry, including market price fluctuations, weather, and governmental regulation, many citrus operations are in a tough spot.
While solutions exist to control traditional citrus threats, including citrus canker and CTV, controlling HLB is still a work in progress. So far, solutions are scarce. For many operations, the citrus greening epidemic has been detrimental, resulting in a severe loss of production. If operations are not managed properly, a loss of production hurts their economic viability.
There are options, however, to deal with these challenges. Citrus growers may opt to:
- Leave the industry and repurpose and/or sell the land for other agricultural or real estate uses.
- Be patient and wait for HLB research to develop a cure.
- Develop a proactive strategic plan – a “game plan” – for survival, including:
- Continuing a Reset/Solid Set program to maintain grove canopy production,
- aggressive initiatives for HLB therapy to prolong grove life,
- efficient management of “normal” grove culture, and
- a rigorous detailed program to track results and grove performance.
If you’re going to take the third approach and implement an effective HLB defense strategy, you’re going to need capital assets to support land, equipment, infrastructure, and planting costs.
To finance a successful citrus industry operation, call on the ag lending expertise of Bankers South. When it’s time to buy/plant more citrus trees or expand your groves, our AgAmerica agriculture loans are a great choice. These special ag loans feature low interest rates, which often beat all other agricultural loan programs. Learn more about this one-of-a-kind ag loan program!
If you haven’t heard the good news, the farm bill received its final seal of approval courtesy of President Obama last week. It’s about time!
Its new-found status of completion is cause to celebrate.
Agribusinesses in Southwest Florida are very pleased, especially citrus growers.
Citrus growers waited nervously and impatiently for Obama to sign off on the proposed $125 million worth of emergency funds (dispersed over the next five years) dedicated to extensive citrus greening (HLB) research. Fortunately, Obama signed in favor.
These research funds are expected to not only benefit Florida, but also California, Texas, Arizona, and all citrus growing operations in the United States.
Over the past five years, Florida citrus growers have put approximately $70 million into citrus greening studies. Yet, despite heavy research initiatives, HLB continues to infect and destruct, damaging groves, killing off trees, and limiting harvests. Clearly, the solutions are slim. Hopefully, with these emergency funds in place, real solutions will surface.
Separate from the $125 million allocated for citrus greening research, the farm bill also assigns $275 million over the next five years to “specialty crop” research and initiatives (up from $230 million in the 2008 farm bill). Since citrus is categorized as a “speciality crop,” this presents additional good news (and funds!) for the industry.
Other nationwide farm bill programs are also expected to benefit Florida’s agribusinesses. New agriculture and food research initiatives, organic agriculture research and education efforts, and beginning farmers and ranchers programs are bound to aid Florida in fortifying its agriculture.
Need help developing your citrus operation? Call on us here Bankers South – a Florida-based ag lending company – for farmland financing support. Our AgAmerica Lending Program boasts unparalleled farm loan products perfect for re-planting citrus trees, expanding your groves, etc. Please contact us for further information about our AgAmerica farm loans and citrus loans!