Doug OhlemeierPeter Chaires (left), executive vice president of Florida Citrus Packers Inc., Maitland, talks with Daniel Hunt, packing and sales coordinator of Lake Wales, Fla.-based Hunt Bros. Inc., during a June 11 meeting at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs, Fla. At that meeting, the Florida Department of Citrus rolled out a plan to reorganize. (UPDATED COVERAGE 6:10 p.m.) BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Operating with leaner budgets, the Florida Department of Citrus is reorganizing.
The Bartow-based organization is changing to better meet new funding levels caused by recent years of lower orange and grapefruit production.
During their June 11 monthly meeting at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference, members of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the agency, heard how the agency is refocusing efforts.
The agency’s staffing is about a third of its historical levels and the agency needed to reorganize in response to industry contraction, said Doug Ackerman, executive director.
“The way we go about business as an agency has to change,” he said. “This is more than just a strategic plan or a marketing plan. It’s fundamentally how we are, how we operate and how we survive HLB (citrus greening) as an organization.”
“This is a counterinsurgency for us,” he said. “We have our own insurgency to fight. We have our own weapons to develop. A new battle plan starts today.”
In other news, commissioners approved $2.5 million to fund research into citrus diseases managed by the Florida Citrus Research and Development Foundation Inc., in Lake Alfred.
The amount is similar to last year’s contract.
On June 11, the first day of the conference sponsored by Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, also included the organization’s annual meeting.
At the meeting, growers and handlers elected these individuals to the trade group’s executive committee:
- Larry Black, partner and manager of Peace River Packing, Fort Meade, Fla., president;
- Vic Story Jr., president of Story Grove Service Inc., Lake Wales, Fla., northern area vice president;
- Steve Johnson, president of Johnson Harvesting Inc., Wauchula, Fla., southern area vice president;
- Mike Monroe, general manager of Fellsmere Farms, Fellsmere, Fla., eastern area vice president; and
- John Barben, vice president of Barben Fruit Co., Sebring, Fla., and Robert J. Barben Inc., interior area vice president.