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Agriculture

CITRUS: Running Out of Juice

Last summer's quartet of hurricanes has "taken 30% of the (citrus) crop out of the market," says Andy LaVigne, CEO of growers association Florida Citrus Mutual. The dent in supply means that growers will get more money this year for what remains of their yields. Growers should expect to get 85 cents per pound of oranges compared to 65 cents per pound last year.

Consumption has been down about 3% over the last three to four years, LaVigne says, due in part to the craze over low-carb diets. To counter the lagging sales, the Department of Citrus has launched a series of orange juice ads in the past year with money it receives from a 16.5-cents-a-box citrus tax, which growers must pay.

But the box tax may face a fatal blow of its own. In October, the 2nd District Court of Appeal sided with eight of the state's biggest growers calling the Citrus Department tax unconstitutional. The department has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Even more troubling for the industry: State agriculture officials found more than 11,000 trees infected with canker in Charlotte County following Hurricane Charley. Those trees and others within a 1,900-foot radius of each infected tree will be destroyed, potentially clearing more than 117,000 trees in 900 surrounding acres. Smaller outbreaks have also been found in Collier, DeSoto, Highlands, Lee, Orange and Osceola counties.

2005 Forecast: "We're experiencing somewhat of a culmination of a perfect storm," says Andy LaVigne, CEO of growers association Florida Citrus Mutual. As growers continue to be pressured by developers, it's unclear how many will decide to give up. "They're evaluating that now," says LaVigne.
FORESTRY: Pulp Fiction

More than 2.3 million acres of forests were destroyed or damaged during the hurricanes this past summer, which will likely cost the state's $16-billion timber industry almost $400 million in lost timber. What can be salvaged will likely be turned into pulp for paper instead of being sold for lumber for construction, which is much more lucrative. Compounding the problem is an existing surplus of smaller trees used for pulp, which has already depressed prices for growers.

2005 Forecast: "Because of international competitiveness, the amount of wood and paper products has decreased in the U.S. and will continue to decrease," says Jeff Doran, executive vice president of the Florida Forestry Association. "We have more trees growing now than we did 70 years ago."