US citrus growers are having trouble selling their harvests because buyers are importing citrus from Brazil and Mexico. However, while millions of gallons of unsold orange juice languish in storage, the newly reshuffled and divided Florida Citrus Commission defeated proposals Wednesday to increase the tax Florida citrus growers self-impose for marketing.
On split votes, commissioners twice voted down motions to raise the tax on 90-pound boxes of citrus to 12 cents, up from the current 7 cents. The increase, desired by members who are citrus growers or represent them, would have generated about $2 million in new funds for advertising in hopes of selling the surplus juice more quickly. The 7-cent box tax generates about $5 million annually.
Also on split votes, commissioners voted down motions to hold the box tax at 7 cents, as favored by members who represent handlers and processors who buy imported fruit as well as Florida’s own.
After more than three hours of discussion, the commission agreed to leave the tax unchanged and instead dip into the Department of Citrus’ $13 million savings account for “up to $2 million” for expanded advertising. Funds would be released piecemeal based on which marketing ideas the commission hears and likes, if any.
In letters to the commission, 13 of the state’s largest citrus-growing companies and Florida Citrus Mutual, the largest citrus association, spoke against raising the box tax and expressed greater interest in pursuing entry into federal marketing programs.