A message about Florida OJ

A message about Florida OJ

WILL INCREASED Florida citrus quality and better-tasting not-from-concentrate juice translate into increased consumption? Marty McKenna thinks so. McKenna is chairman of the board of the Florida Department of Citrus. He addressed the matter of Florida citrus quality — and the future of a highly challenged Florida citrus industry — during the Florida Citrus Mutual Annual Conference not long ago.

In essence, McKenna urged growers, leaders of grower associations, and other industry officials to do their part to help maintain Florida OJ’s hard-fought position as the gold standard among all the juices available to the consumer. He urged them to help rebuild the industry and resist the temptation to embrace a federal marketing order concept that would reduce Florida juice to a generic or homogeneous product for the sake of increased sales.

McKenna acknowledged the pressures the Florida citrus industry is facing — the tree-killing greening disease (HLB), imports of lower-quality and cheaper foreign juice, the premium price of Florida juice at the grocery, and falling consumption. But he reminded his audience “that we have been entrusted with a great legacy and given the tools by past leaders to make this a great industry.”

McKenna suggested that future growers and the Florida citrus industry as a whole will be better served by the longtime work — “the dedication and vision” — of plant breeders, rather than by a rush to a federal marketing order. “We soon will be replacing our (HLB-sickened) trees with superior cultivars,” he said. “These cultivars will allow for traditional Valencia-quality (Florida) juice from November to June.

“In the time it takes to implement a generic commodity orange juice federal program, we can have thousands of new cultivars growing,” McKenna said, adding his belief that HLB will be whipped through the use of improved citrus rootstock and cultivars.

Superior juice and effective product differentiation through marketing channels are keys to maintaining Florida OJ’s status as America’s favorite 100 percent juice, McKenna said. “We have an obligation to the future generations of Florida citrus growers to stay strong going forward,” he said. McKenna’s comments (read them all at http://ow.ly/VqJzu) have resonated with a lot of people. How about with you?

CREDIT

article by CHARLES COUNTER

BIO: Charles Counter started in the agriculture business in 1986. He is the Director of Field Operations for the Haines City Citrus Growers Association, managing over 7,000 acres of ag land in Florida. Established in 1909, the HCCGA provides for Complete Grove Development and Management, is a Member of Florida’s Natural, and operates as Caretaker and Packer of Citrus, as well as Organic & Conventional Peaches and Blueberries. To contact Charles, call (863) 557-0510 or email charles@hilltopcitrus.com.

Posted January 12, 2016