Florida citrus industry in trouble, officials say
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – What would Florida be without the beloved orange?
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the state is almost at the point where that thought has to be considered.
"I have a great deal of concern for the future of the Florida citrus industry," Putnam said.
Putnam said oranges and other citrus grown in Florida are in trouble. The state has been battling a crop disease for the better part of a decade called citrus greening.
"We are seeing the smallest crops we've seen in the modern era," Putnam said. "We're seeing small and medium-size growers unable to set a crop at a profit, and there's no good Plan B."
If no cure for the disease is found, the entire industry could be gone within a matter of years.
The state's citrus industry employs about 76,000 people and generates around $10 billion a year, but the citrus greening disease has caused that number to go down by about $1 billion a year since 2007. Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro said it affects more than growers.
"The stores, the wholesalers, the transporters, the retail outlets, and most importantly the consumers (are affected)," Calabro said.
Putnam said state and federal money to combat the disease isn't the problem.
"Unfortunately it is not a matter of resources at this time, it's a matter of a race against the clock," Putnam said.
While the clock continues to tick, Florida's brand – the fruit proudly displayed on the license plate – hangs in the balance.
"The Sunshine State would not be the same without it's cup of OJ," Calabro said.
The rest of the country has an interest, too. More than 60 percent of all citrus consumed in the U.S. comes from Florida.
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