Florida avocado handlers will pay more this upcoming season to help fight red bay ambrosia beetles, which carry laurel wilt fungus.

Florida avocado assessments increasing

Doug Ohlemeier

The USDA has increased the assessment south Florida growers pay to fund the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, Homestead. The assessment is increasing 10 cents.

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted a rule increasing the assessment rate from 27 cents to 37 cents for each 55-pound bushel container packed. The assessment is collected by the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee, Homestead, which administers the federal marketing order regulating handling of Florida avocados. The rule was published in the Federal Register.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, had been funding research into an insecticide that can kill the bug, but the university ended funding in August.

The increased fees will provide an additional $100,000 in income, boosting the committee’s budget from $270,000 in 2009-10 to $370,000 in 2010-11, according to the USDA.

With the assessment increase, researchers can continue studying the best ways to kill and control the beetle, according to the committee and the USDA.

The committee believes it is essential for the industry that the research continues, the USDA stated in its assessment increase order. Alan Flinn, committee administrator, said the rate increase was approved in April and took effect for the current season. He said the USDA didn’t finalize the ruling until recently.

Though growers often begin harvesting large green-skinned avocados in late May, commercial volumes normally ramp up in mid-June with promotable volumes usually hitting in early July. The season runs through March.