Scott Vetoes Citrus Research Funds
Lakeland Ledger – May 26, 2011
HAINES CITY | Florida citrus lost two major battles in the 2011-12 state budget today when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a $2 million appropriation for citrus greening research but declined to veto a measure that made major changes to the Florida Citrus Commission and Florida Department of Citrus.
Scott’s actions represent a split decision for state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who sponsored both measures.
“During the past few weeks, Mutual and the Florida citrus industry made a very strong push to convince Governor Scott to veto (Senate Bill 2122),” Mike Sparks, chief executive at Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a Thursday morning email announcing Scott’s decisions.
“The bill makes several organizational changes to the Florida Department of Citrus including implementing redistricting and shrinking the number of Commission appointments.”
“Unfortunately, we have more bad news,” Sparks added. “Later today the governor will announce his line item budget vetoes, and it is our understanding he plans to eliminate nearly $1 billion in state spending. We anticipate the governor will strike the $2 million appropriated for citrus disease research.”
Scott was holding a budget-signing ceremony at 1 p.m. today at The Villages in Lake County.
Alexander, chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, pushed through SB 2122 in the last week of the Legislature without vetting it with Citrus Mutual — the state’s largest growers’ representative — or any other state citrus group.
The changes include shrinking the Citrus Commission, governing body of the Citrus Department that is based in Bartow, to nine members from 12 people currently; redrawing the commission’s member districts by shrinking the number from four to three districts; ending the terms of current commissioners, which allows Scott to appoint all nine members of the smaller board; and limiting the term of the department’s executive director to four years beginning July 1 and making his successor subject to Senate confirmation.
All but one major citrus organization called on Scott to veto SB 2122, objecting to one or more of those provisions and to Alexander’s pushing it through without industry consultation. The lone holdout was the Gulf Coast Citrus Growers Association in LaBelle, whose membership includes Alico Inc., where Alexander is chief executive officer.
The $2 million was scheduled to go to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation Inc., a growers’ organization overseeing a major research effort to combat citrus greening, a bacterial disease that could wipe out commercial citrus growing in Florida.
[ Kevin Bouffard can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-422-6800. Read more on Florida citrus on his Facebook page, Florida Citrus Witness, http://bit.ly/baxWuU. ]