By Doug Ohlemeier, The Packer

Box taxes on Florida oranges are increasing, but grapefruit taxes won't change.

The Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Lakeland-based Florida Department of Citrus' marketing programs, on June 20 approved a two-cent increase on fresh oranges and tangerines, to 18 cents a box. For juice oranges, the tax went from 22 cents to 24 cents a box. An agency recommendation to raise fresh and processed grapefruit taxes from 35 cents to 40 cents a box was denied.

"It was a pure tax issue," said Andrew Meadows, the agency's spokesman, who became director of communications for Florida Citrus Mutual on July 2. "They (the industry) felt 35 cents was sufficient to put forth some strong marketing programs."

Meadows said the expected larger fall grapefruit crop should fund the department?s marketing momentum.

The commission plans to work with a $60 million budget for the 2007-08 season, 18% higher than its $50.7 million budget in 2006-07 but smaller than its proposed $65 million budget.

Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, Vero Beach, Fla., said the vote reflected the industry?s mood.

"Everybody was together on that," he said. "It carried with no discussion. The commissioners knew the sentiment and mindset was to keep taxes frozen to last year's level."