Resources & Researchers Rally to Save State’s Iconic Crop


Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida

The orange has long been Florida’s most iconic agricultural product. Originating in Asia, the orange first made its way to the New World in 1493 aboard the ships of Christopher Columbus. It wasn’t long before the Spanish brought them to Florida, and by the time Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, commercial orange production was already underway, although most were consumed locally. 

However, it was not until the 1870s that commercial citrus production in Florida began to reach its true potential. The Florida citrus industry saw its first boom, and more and more would-be entrepreneurs began to arrive in the Sunshine State to try their hand at making it rich growing oranges and other citrus. Soon, the development of railroads allowed Florida oranges to make their way across the country. 

Since then, the Florida citrus industry has faced myriad challenges, from freezes to fruit fly infestations, but despite that, the industry and its growers have persevered through all these years. 

Of course, the modern orange grower still faces challenges, and things have been especially tough for Florida’s most iconic crop for the past several years. In particular, threats such as greening and canker have been a major issue, although work is being done to fight against them. The past year has also seen other challenges, such as the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian.

But just as our orange growers have persevered in the past, they continue to persevere today. And despite concerns, the USDA’s latest Florida all orange forecast for 2023-2024 is very positive, with this year’s production predicted to exceed last year’s. 

The latest report, which was released February 8, forecasts 19.8 million boxes of orange production for the 2023-2024 season. This includes 6.8 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges, plus 13 million boxes of Valencia oranges. For the 2022-2023 season, Florida produced 15.8 million boxes of oranges.

Considering the impact of Florida oranges on our economy, good news about Florida oranges is good news for all of us

According to Christa Court, director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program, the Florida citrus industry contributes just shy of $7 billion to Florida’s economy. That also takes into account other industries that are involved in fruit production, like fresh fruit packing, as well as orange juice, grapefruit juice and other citrus juice production.

In addition, there are an estimated 32,542 jobs that are supported either directly or indirectly by the Florida citrus industry.

Significant work is being done to support our orange industry, including research to fight greening. Researchers are searching for solutions to protect oranges from the psyllid bugs that spread greening and developing disease-resistant varieties. As this research develops, we will hopefully see greening being effectively controlled in the coming years. 

The state government is also working to support the citrus industry. Recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis released a budget proposal that included $20 million for citrus research and the Citrus Health Response Program, as well as another $10 million to support advertising by the Florida Department of Citrus.

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