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Florida citrus industry set to meet for annual conference

by Chip Carter | June 07, 2010
Hundreds of growers, shippers and representatives from allied industries will gather June 9-11 in Bonita Springs, FL, for the Florida Citrus Industry annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort.

At this time last year, the industry had just heard good news about citrus canker, a virulent blemish that had hampered interstate trade for years. That was countered by reports of a growing threat -- huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease -- and this year HLB will be at the fore of the conference, said Florida Citrus Mutual spokesperson Andrew Meadows.

This year's conference will get straight to business. On the morning of June 9, a slate of officers will be elected for the coming two years; that afternoon, the Florida Citrus Commission will present and vote on its annual budget for 2010-11. A welcome reception will follow in the evening.

June 10 brings a full day of educational sessions addressing HLB and other concerns.

The docket includes an overview of new numeric nutrient criteria regulations coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that could radically alter chemical use by Florida growers. Representatives from the Florida EPA and Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services will review the new rules and answer questions from growers.

An overview of the industry's research arm, the Citrus Research & Development Foundation, will follow.

But the main focus of the morning will be a panel discussion on surviving HLB.

Moderated by grower Marty McKenna, a Mutual board member and former president, the panel will be comprised of Jerry Newlin, production manager of Orange-Co. LP in Arcadia, FL; Jackie Burns from the University of Florida's Institute of Food & Agricultural Science Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, FL; grower Maury Boyd of Felda, FL, who is well known for his grove nutritional program; and Mike Irie, director of research for U.S. Sugar Corp. in Clewiston, FL.

A June 10 luncheon will honor outgoing Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum will speak. That evening following a cocktail reception, the annual industry banquet will feature U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Bartow), a candidate for Mr. Bronson's post, as keynote speaker.

Golf and fishing tournaments Friday morning will help raise money for Mutual's political action committee. Later that day a VIP cocktail reception for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Tampa) will be held, and the senator will then speak at the conference's closing banquet that evening.

Last year, a record 675 attendees came to Bonita Springs for the conference; this year's numbers were just shy of that total a week before the event, Mr. Meadows said.