The massive Citrus Research and Field Trials (CRAFT) program will probably be run by a direct support organization, to be established within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Mike Sparks announced the pending arrangement June 13, during the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs.
The CRAFT program features an expected 5,000 acres of new planting in Florida to determine what works and doesn’t work against HLB. The program will be funded in large part with several million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and may also include state funding.
“Florida Citrus Mutual stepped up,” Sparks says. “We approached (Florida Agriculture) Commissioner Nikki Fried (about sponsoring a DSO) and she was receptive … We think we can get a DSO established by June 30.” He says the DSO will exist “exclusively for the implementation of the CRAFT program … This is to launch the CRAFT and demonstrate to growers and researchers what works in the state of Florida and how we can be successful in growing a crop as we continue the battle against HLB.”
“Growers are keenly interested” in the program, Sparks says. “Many look forward to participating … The incentive for the grower is a cost-share project. We’re still shooting to reimburse the grower 50 percent of his costs to plant and grow that crop.”
Growers who participate reportedly will be able to choose from a variety of management practices they agree to implement in the field trials. Researchers will analyse production data to determine which practices were successful against HLB. Long-time citrus attorney Kristen Carlson will be CRAFT’s interim project manager.