TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis has received a bill that makes adjustments to the Florida Citrus Commission, a state agency charged with regulating the citrus industry in the state. House Bill 1097 expands the size of the commission, adds new citrus districts, and creates new membership requirements.
The bill comes as Florida’s citrus production remains weak, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA data showed Florida’s orange production was the lowest of the past four seasons, in terms of boxes of oranges produced. The 2021 to 2022 growing season showed that in Florida, all orange production fell 11% from the previous season.
Grapefruit production was also lower, down 7%, while mandarin and tangelo production fell only 1%. The citrus season should end in early June, according to the USDA.
Legislative analysis of HB 1097 indicates that the bill will make multiple changes to the management of the citrus industry in Florida. According to the text of the new legislation, the number of citrus districts in the state has increased from three to six and the number of commission members has increased from nine to 11.
In addition, the conditions of membership for each commissioner would be slightly modified.
Going forward, the bill states that members will serve three-year terms. Also, due to the expansion of the commission, new members must be appointed on or after July 1, when the bill comes into effect. The terms of these members will end on May 31, 2025 to respect the three-year term rule.
As for membership requirements, some changes are simple, changing classification names, while others involve qualifications to serve.
If the bill is signed into law, three members of the commission must be processors or people involved in canning, concentrating or processing citrus fruits for the market. A member must be a packer, that is, a person involved in a business that operates a packing plant. They must reside in the Indian River Florida production area.
Another member will need to be a grower with a production area of more than 5,001 acres and “residing and growing citrus” in Florida.
In addition, the number of producer members of the commission will increase from six to seven. All commission members must live in Florida. Districts for citrus growing have also been redefined due to the increase in the number of districts.
As of July 1, citrus segments will be defined as follows:
- District 1: Collier, Hendry and Lee counties.
- District 2: Charlotte County
- District 3: Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.
- District 4: Hardee, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.
- District 5: Citrus, Hernando, Levy, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, and Sumter counties.
- District 6: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Flagler, Indian River, Lake, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Putnam, St. Johns, Seminole, St. Lucie, and Volusia counties.
Each member of the commission classified as a grape grower must be from one of the new citrus districts. Members are appointed at the discretion of the Governor.
New responsibilities will also be added to the Citrus Commission. When the bill takes effect, the commission will have new rules for research proposals and scholarship funding. The Citrus Production and Research Treasury will now contract through the Commission and report every six months.
The report, written by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, Inc., should include information on:
- Project plans selected for funding
- Financial situation of each project
- Results of funded research
- Availability of citrus products or applications of grower practices as discovered through funded research
- State of the commercialization processes of these products or practices
In addition, prior to sale to the public, “any new variety of citrus fruit developed as a result of any research or study carried out using any percentage of funds from the public treasury as well as any technology which improves the Commercialization of New or Existing Citrus Fruit Varieties” shall be made available exclusively to the Florida Citrus Commission and the Department of Citrus for a commercial license for 90 days before being opened to other licensees.
If the commission uses this exclusive licence, it must retain exclusive use of it for eight years. If the governor signs the bill, it would go into effect July 1. He will have until May 27 to act on the bill.