At the Florida Citrus Commission’s June 21 monthly meeting, Richard Kinney, executive vice president of Florida Citrus Packers Inc., asked the commissioners who govern the Florida Department of Citrus to turn half of the 20-cent a box tax on fresh oranges and specialty fruit such as tangerines over to the industry trade group.
Florida Citrus Packers is a trade group representing fresh packers.
The request came as commission board members considered increasing per-box taxes, or assessments, used to fund the agency’s marketing and merchandising programs.
Fresh oranges account for 3.9% of Florida’s 226 million normal annual orange production. Fresh grapefruit has 40% of its normal 45 million boxes shipping fresh.
Kinney said the state’s fresh packers would prefer to privately fund their own promotions. They said they don’t believe the citrus department can adequately market Florida’s fresh oranges.
Quentin Roe, vice president of marketing and sales for William G. Roe and Sons Inc., Winter Haven, told commissioners the fresh industry needs its own programs.
“Think hard about fresh fruit,” he said. “Don’t let it be a red-headed stepchild anymore.”
Frank Hunt III, president of Hunt Bros. Cooperative, Lake Wales, said the fresh segment needs the money to support the unique challenges it faces.
“The Florida Department of Citrus isn’t structured to address those issues,” he said. “Fresh tends to fall under the shadow of the processed industry.”
Kinney said the effort to separate funding may take up to two years.
Commissioners weren’t expected to vote on Kinney’s proposal until after they settle the proposed box tax rate increases.
The commission had planned to vote on the rate hikes June 21 but postponed its consideration until its mid-July meeting, after a recommendation by leaders of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest grower trade group.