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Farm Bill's Failure Raises Grim Prospects For Florida Citrus Industry

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected the Farm Bill Thursday; the bill’s failure has serious ramifications for Florida’s farmers.

Agriculture is Florida’s second largest industry.  According to Janell Hendren of the Florida Farm Bureau it’s worth over $100 billion.  A tenth of that economic output comes thanks to the Florida citrus industry.

One of the marquis provisions of the House farm bill was a shift away from direct payments in favor of increased crop insurance.  Rather than paying farmers to plant crops, this bill would have further insured against losses should farmers face a disappointing harvest.

More important to Florida, though, Hendren said the bill included programs to support a citrus industry reeling from the negative impacts of greening.

“The current farm bill in the house would have fully funded those programs for five years.  Unfortunately, we are likely to have to fight for that funding every year,” Hendren said.

Greening is a bacterial infection that has no known cure.  Replacement crops like blueberries or peaches remain unproven as large scale replacements to citrus.  Hendren said the prospect of Florida losing citrus would be disastrous. 

“It would be tragic for Florida to lose the orange juice brand.  Everything that drives central rural Florida will be just decimated.  Because I know a lot of growers are not moving to other crops, a lot of growers are considering simply selling their land to development,” Hendren said.

There’s still a Senate farm bill, but officials at the Farm Bureau are not convinced it can pass the House either.