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Citrus remains a key industry in Florida's economy

TC Palm – July 25, 2009

I am writing in response to a July 19 letter that questions the value of the jobs created by the Florida citrus industry.

A report released earlier this month by the University of Florida concludes that the state’s citrus industry annually generates an $8.9 billion economic impact and nearly 76,000 jobs. The jobs range from growers to fertilizer salesmen to equipment dealerships to the people who harvest the fruit. And don’t forget the banks and insurance companies that rely on citrus. Maybe the writer would like to ask those folks if they value their jobs. I suspect the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

Citrus forms the backbone of many communities across Florida making it even more important in these tough times.

Furthermore, when Florida citrus growers hire workers, whether seasonal or full time, they must file the appropriate paperwork as well as withhold taxes and Social Security on all their employees. So saying they get a free ride is just plain inaccurate. Our industry is proud of our workers and the job they do to support all of us.

Currently, Florida’s signature industry is facing immense challenges including an insidious disease known as HLB, or citrus greening. The $43 million in federal funds announced by Rep. Tom Rooney will help fight the disease and potentially save our century-old industry and the jobs and economic activity that come with it. A lot is at stake.

Experts predict that if a solution is not found in the next five years, there could be a worldwide shortage of citrus. This would not only be bad for the economy of Florida, but for consumers as well.

Michael W. Sparks
executive vice president/CEO
Florida Citrus Mutual
Lakeland

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