It’s Time for a Trees-in-the-Ground Campaign

In military campaigns the only way to achieve total victory is with “boots on the ground.”

For the Florida citrus industry’s ongoing battle against HLB though, it’s “trees in the ground.”

Technology can be wonderful; however, all the advances we’ve made will be for naught if the industry does not initiate and maintain a robust tree-planting effort. If the Florida citrus industry is to exist in the future as anything other than a token presence, we must find a way to move from a defensive posture to an offensive attack. It is just that simple. 

We are currently losing market share to other countries and critical support infrastructure that has taken generations to build and cannot be easily replaced.

One of the most effective tools to accomplish this is a good tree-planting cost share program. 

These programs can be very effective. Some private industry group programs, such as Florida Natural’s TAP programs, were straightforward, focused, could be implemented quickly, and were user-friendly. 

The monetary contributions could be recouped as these trees came into production, and they helped provide the continuous support of jobs and revenue. 

Other programs have not gone so well. There’s an old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This applies to some of these programs, especially when government funds are involved. 

Although these programs start with good intentions, often the tail ends up wagging the dog. Many growers will not attempt these programs because of the logjam of bureaucratic red tape. These growers — as well as the supporting businesses — are too busy trying to keep their head above water, measuring their economic viability in months. They don’t have time to jump through hoops for a year (or more). 

These programs must be streamlined, user friendly, and should be deployed quickly. They should be designed as a participant recruitment drive instead of an obstacle course where only a few reach the finish line.

Tamara Wood and her leadership team have done a great job running the current CRAFT programs, effectively avoiding these bureaucratic pitfalls.

We should take a hard look at what works instead of trying to chop wood with a rubber ax. There are tenacious people in the industry — some with generations of knowledge and skill — who are combining these talents with new innovations and open minds. 

New technologies such as Tree Defender IPCs and CUPS can grow trees into production free of HLB. These are big steps in their own right; but there are many advancements on the horizon. These technologies can put “trees in the ground” and help turn the battle to save Florida citrus. 

Bio: Scott Thompson is co-founder of Tree Defender, Radical Ag-Tech, and Care Planet Technologies. He is a Central Florida native with a background in agribusiness, food manufacturing, and bioscience.

This column is sponsored by Tree Defender, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

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