Polk County Florida Citrus. There is a shortage of raw materials, including fertilizer and diesel fuel, which drives up the prices of what is available. A labor shortage is currently making it hard to find people to work. Florida Citrus

Florida Citrus Budget Revised Amid Production Drop

The Florida Citrus Commission on Wednesday made a second budget revision of the growing season to account for the industry’s drop in production, which has been exacerbated by Hurricane Ian.
Florida Citrus, File Photo

The Florida Citrus Commission on Wednesday made a second budget revision of the growing season to account for the industry’s drop in production, which has been exacerbated by Hurricane Ian.

Commission members adjusted the Florida Department of Citrus budget by $776,142, with most of the money shifted out of reserves.

The move came after the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month reduced a forecast for Florida orange production by 29 percent, grapefruit production by 10 percent and specialty fruits by 14 percent.

The Department of Citrus gets part of its revenue through a per-box tax on growers — which is 5 cents per box for fresh oranges, 12 cents per box for processed oranges and 7 cents per box for grapefruit and specialty fruit.

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The latest forecast is expected to reduce anticipated tax collections, with production on pace to be the lowest since the 1929-1930 season. In October, the commission trimmed by $123,000 the $29.795 million budget.

That was based on an initial season forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The industry has struggled for years with issues such as deadly citrus-greening disease. The department’s budget includes $19.1 million in state money, which was a nearly $2 million boost from the prior fiscal year.

During a legislative training session last week, Sen. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican and citrus grower, called for more assistance to rural communities, as he said Ian’s path crossed up to 90 percent of what remains of the citrus industry in Florida.

“It doesn’t look the same. It’s not buildings blown over, but it is profoundly impacted. Catastrophically impacted,” said Albritton, who chairs the new Senate Select Committee on Resiliency and is in line to be the Senate president after the 2024 elections.

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