- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has forecasted an increase in citrus production for the 2023-24 season in Florida, following one of the worst yields in more than a century.
- The USDA estimates that Florida will produce 20.5 million boxes of oranges, 1.9 million boxes of grapefruit, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines, indicating a nearly 25 percent increase in productivity compared to the year prior.
- Legislation known as the “Block Grant Assistance Act” passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June aims to provide disaster relief funding to Florida citrus growers affected by natural calamities like hurricanes, potentially bringing much-needed assistance to the industry.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its initial forecast for the 2023-24 citrus season, projecting an uptick in production from Florida growers following one of the worst fruit yields in a century last year.
During an information briefing on Thursday afternoon, USDA principal statistician Mark Hudson delivered a production estimate for the state at 20.5 million boxes of Florida Oranges, 1.9 million boxes of Florida Grapefruit, and 500,000 boxes of Florida Tangerines.
The forecast shows a nearly 25 percent expected increase in productivity compared to the year prior, when growers produced 15.85 million boxes of oranges, down from 41.2 million boxes during the 2021-2022 season. Looking towards the turn of the century, typical annual production figures topped 200 million boxes of oranges and about 50 million boxes of grapefruit.
“Today’s Citrus Crop Forecast helps strengthen our industry’s faith in the future of Florida Citrus and is a further testament to growers’ determination and ingenuity as we see a slight upswing in production,” said Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus (FDoC). “The foundation of this industry is its ability to adapt, overcome and evolve in our treatments and protections against prolonged challenges stemming from extreme weather and citrus greening.”
In a presentation given to the state Senate in February, FDoC told lawmakers that more than 375,000 acres of commercial citrus farms faced production losses due to hurricane or tropical storm-force winds, resulting in between $146.9 million and $304.3 million in production loss. Agency representatives also stated that between 8 and 11 percent of the state’s citrus trees were damaged or destroyed during hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
However, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation In June known as the “Block Grant Assistance Act,” which aims to enhance the allocation of disaster relief funding for agricultural producers affected by natural calamities, potentially bringing millions to Florida citrus growers.
The bill, sponsored by all 28 delegates of Florida, proposes an amendment to the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to distribute assistance for agricultural losses from natural disasters like Hurricane Ian through block grants, replacing the direct disbursement of funds to individual producers.
Agricultural block grants are a form of financial assistance provided by the government to states and territories to support agricultural programs and initiatives. Instead of directly disbursing funds to individual agricultural producers, the government allocates a fixed amount of money as a block grant to eligible states. The states then have the flexibility to distribute these funds among agricultural producers based on their specific needs and priorities.
“It’s no secret that Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole left the heart of citrus country with a long road to recovery, but Florida growers have worked to recover from extreme weather before, and this year is no exception,” said the Florida Department of Citrus. “[We are] working alongside industry leaders and elected officials to help ensure Florida citrus growers have the assistance necessary while they continue to replant, rebuild, and work toward long-term solutions in the industry’s fight.”