Florida TaxWatch Economic Commentary
Squeezing the greening out of Florida citrus
Citrus Diseases are Costly to the State
A number of diseases affect Florida citrus crops. Perhaps the most impactful is Citrus Greening, a disease caused by bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which causes a phenomenon known as "premature fruit drop." Since its introduction to Florida in 2005, the disease has been costly to the Sunshine State. A 2012 University of Florida (UF) report estimated that citrus greening cost the Florida economy approximately $3.63 billion in lost revenues and 6,611 jobs over five seasons (2006-07 through 2010-11) due to the decrease in orange juice production.6 While the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries sector is by far the most heavily impacted, negative effects are felt by the Government, Health and Social Services, and Retail Trade sectors as well. The UF estimates do not include the impacts on the fresh orange market, or the impact of the disease on other crops such as grapefruits, making the impact of the disease much more serious.
The other disease doing substantial damage to Florida citrus crops is Citrus Canker, which causes lesions on the leaves, stems, and fruit of citrus trees, ultimately leading to reduced output and higher cost of production. The public and private sectors are both affected by the cost of programs looking to eradicate Citrus Canker. One particularly costly campaign to both sectors was a decade-long, ultimately unsuccessful fight against Citrus Canker in South Florida. More than 60,000 trees were felled during the campaign,7 as the state had declared that any tree within 1,900 feet of an infected tree had to be destroyed. As a result, approximately 26,000 homeowners in Palm Beach County alone lost citrus trees,8and have yet to be compensated for their loss by the state.
Production Decline Disproportionately Affects Specific Florida Counties
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, more than 60 percent of the state’s citrus production is concentrated in 5 counties: Polk, Hendry, Highlands, DeSoto, and Hardee. In the 2013-14 season, Polk County produced 4.7 million fewer boxes than the previous season, and Sarasota County experienced the largest loss by percentage, with 46 percent less boxes than the previous season.
For several of these counties, citrus is one of the biggest economic drivers, and is an important source of local tax revenues. Citrus production in the Central Florida region alone has a total employment impact of 40,149 jobs. This is three times larger than the employment impact that the industry has in South Florida and almost five times the impact it has in the Indian River region.9
Another UF report on Polk County’s economy shows that the manufacturing and distribution industries in the county are geographically dependent on its agricultural production, which is dominated by citrus.10
6 University of Florida. "Economic Impacts of Citrus Greening (HLB) in Florida, 2006/07-2010/11." January 2012.
7 Reuters. "Jury awards Florida homeowners millions for uprooted citrus trees." October 2014.
8 Sun Sentinel. "PB Households win millions for trees destroyed in citrus canker fight." March 2015.
9 University of Florida. "Economic Impacts of the Florida Citrus Industry in 2012-13." December 2014.
10 University of Florida. "Economic Contributions of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Food Industries in Polk County, Florida." January 2015.
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