Scroll to the bottom of the page to view a special ‘History of FCM’ video made to celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary.
During the late 1940s, the citrus industry experienced severe market fluctuations. Citrus prices did not even cover the cost of production and growers were losing money. The Citrus Exchange determined that the industry needed an organization dedicated to stabilizing prices. Consequently, the idea for Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) was born. FCM began operating in 1948, despite not being officially activated until March 25, 1949. Several key men in the citrus industry strongly supported FCM’s cause and are largely responsible for recruiting members as well as getting the organization on its feet. These men are known as Mutual’s founding fathers: Latt Maxcy, Barney Kilgore, C.C. Commander, J.A. Griffin and James C. Morton.
When FCM finally began operating in 1948, it had more than 6,000 grower members. Mutual was organized to have 21 directors (who are grower-members that represent each of the seven districts), a general manager and several department heads, who all work together to resolve problems facing the citrus industry. Mutual’s primary goal was to raise prices for growers; however, they also provided important price information, which had never before been published.
While FCM was still young, it quickly gained power and began to exert its influence over the fluctuating citrus market. During the 1949-1950 season, Mutual exercised its authority over the market and established a minimum prices for citrus, which gave buyers the confidence to purchase citrus, and became the most prosperous citrus growers had ever seen. Unfortunately, just as FCM began to turn the citrus market around, their methods of price stabilization were challenged. The processors questioned FCM’s practices and in 1952 requested an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In June 1957, after five years of deliberating, the FTC announced that FCM’s actions of fixing prices prior to 1952 were a violation of the spirit of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Though the FTC’s decision dealt a severe blow to Florida Citrus Mutual, as well as citrus growers, Mutual quickly got back on its feet and restructured its goals. Instead of being focused primarily on market stabilization, Mutual emphasized its role of providing market information and price forecasting. Shortly thereafter, Mutual turned more of its attention to state and federal legislation and research and advertising efforts affecting growers.
In 1963 and again in 1970, FCM was instrumental in preventing tariff reductions on imported citrus products, first, during the Kennedy administration’s attempt to reduce duties, and again amid rising competition from Argentina and Brazil. In the 1970s, Mutual negotiated for a higher price of processed citrus with Nixon’s Price Commission during the wage-price freeze, as well as influencing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place requirements for identifying the contents of “orange-flavored” drinks.
In the 1980s and 90s, FCM continued its active role. During the 1980-81 season, Mutual convinced U.S. Customs to prevent processors from converting FCOJ into single-strength juice in a class 8 bonded warehouse in order to offset the tariff on Brazilian imported juice. In 1987, Mutual convinced the U.S. Department of Commerce that Brazil had been dumping FCOJ below fair market value in the U.S.
As a result, Brazilian exporters were forced to pay an additional duty bond on FCOJ. As trade agreements intensified during the 90’s, Mutual continuously fought to exclude citrus from tariff reductions. The North American Free Trade Agreement passed with provisions for citrus, and the Generalized Agreement on Tariffs and Trade maintained the tariff on imported citrus.
Today, Mutual works on issues including international trade, pest and disease, grower legislation, taxation, citrus research, and providing reliable market information and non-price information.
The reason Mutual survives today, since its inception in 1948, is because growers, shippers and processors coalesced to create an organization that has broadened its initiatives to meet the changing needs of its grower members.