Jack Payne, head of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), looks at the past, present and future of Florida citrus, in an interview with Citrus Industry. He has been in the role of senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources since 2010 and is slated to retire on July 1.
“Of course, citrus is the iconic industry in Florida,” which has more than 300 other crops, Payne says. When he came to UF/IFAS in 2010, five years after HLB was discovered in Florida, “it was all hands on deck trying to find a cure,” he says. “We still don’t have a cure, although we are able, from what we’ve learned, to keep people in business and keep growing citrus.”
“A lot of the smaller growers have gone out of business,” Payne notes. He points out that he has heard production costs pre-HLB were $700 to $800 per acre, and are now about $2,200 to $2,400 per acre. The price growers get for their fruit hasn’t gone up to match the production costs, “so a lot of the smaller growers have simply given up.” Many larger growers have bought the smaller growers’ groves, he says.