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Florida citrus acreage falls to new low dropping by 5%

Statistician Candi Erick had hoped to report good news in her valedictory Florida citrus census but the numbers have told the same old story.

Florida citrus acreage fell to a new low at 454,973 acres, a loss of 25,148 acres, or 5 percent, compared to 480,121 acres last year, according to a report released Thursday by the Florida Field Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Polk County led the state in citrus acreage loss over the one-year period, down 6,505 acres to 69,950 grove acres.

“I’ve been hoping for the last three years to see a turnaround,” said Erick, who retires in December as the Field Office’s state administrator. “I thought this might be the year.”

But Polk still leads the state in citrus acreage, ahead of DeSoto County, which has 67,610 grove acres.

If there’s a silver lining to the numbers, it’s that many of the lost acres in Polk were non-producing abandoned groves or marginally producing groves, said Larry Black, general manager of Peace River Packing Co. in Fort Meade, which has a packinghouse and more than 2,000 grove acres.

“Over the last year, a lot of marginal acreage has been taken out,” Black said.

The USDA did not survey abandoned acres this year because of staff and budget cuts, Erick said. Its 2016 survey showed Florida had 130,684 abandoned grove acres, including 8,533 acres in Polk.

Publication date: 9/1/2017


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