Reduced Citrus Budget May Include Health Study

Dan Citrus, Florida, Industry News Release

From: The News Service of Florida

citrusA study on how orange juice can help athletes stay hydrated is back on the table as the Florida Citrus Commission looks at cutting 16 jobs and making other budget reductions amid major problems in the citrus industry. The commission Wednesday did not propose many changes to a proposed $20.6 million budget presented by Department of Citrus staff. The commission will take a preliminary vote June 14 on the proposal, which is 31.9 percent below the current year’s $30.3 million operating budget. The Bartow-based department currently employs 39 people. Chairman G. Ellis Hunt Jr. said the commission will continue taking input from growers, who have pushed for the budget reductions as citrus production this season is currently projected to be 16 percent below the 2014-2015 growing season. The industry has been hit hard by the deadly disease citrus greening. “We’ll continue to massage this and get closer to a finalized budget,” Hunt said. The plan would lead to a drop in the rates of what is known as a “box tax” that growers pay to fund the department. The tax rates will be set in October. The tax is currently proposed to go from 23 cents to 10 cents on each 90-pound box of processed oranges. The tax could go from 19 cents to 10 cents for each box of grapefruit. Some growers had sought reductions to 7 cents a box. The department budget proposal includes cutting travel costs by 40.7 percent, salaries and benefits by 36 percent, retail marketing by 72.5 percent and international marketing by 24.4 percent. With U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts showing slight upticks the past two months in Florida’s projected orange and grapefruit harvest, which would mean more revenue for the agency, Commissioner V.C. Hollingsworth pushed to include in the budget an $86,000 study on the health benefits of orange juice. “I thought that was going to be one of the more beneficial studies in health and wellness, with the millennial segment that we’ve been after,” Hollingsworth said. “I’ve had a lot of folks mention to me that with the runs and marathons and various thing that people participate in, orange juice is one of the major go-to drinks.” Rosa Walsh, department scientific research director, said a contract for the year-long study was ready to be advanced in December but was halted as the seasonal crop estimates declined.