This week, the Florida delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., wrote U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) increase funding for orange juice purchase in Florida to $90 million, doubling the initial allocation from this past summer.
Other signers included Florida Democrat U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Gus Bilirakis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Bill Posey, John Rutherford and Ross Spano.
After Hurricane Irma, Florida’s orange production dropped from 68.7 million boxes in 2017 to 45 million boxes in 2018. In response, local juice processors purchased a large number of Brazilian oranges. This year, Florida orange groves bounced back and produced 71.4 million boxes.
Now, Florida faces a short-term oversupply of oranges for 2020 which will cause a sharp drop in the estimated price from $2.60 to $1.60 per box which could put many local citrus growers out of business. In response, Soto and Yoho are led the letter to protect these growers from an expected one year glut.
The letter is below:
Dear Secretary Perdue,
We urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Agriculture Marketing Service or the Trade Mitigation program, to fully and fairly consider increasing the funding allocation for orange juice purchase to $90 million dollars. On July 25, 2019, the USDA, through the Agriculture Marketing Service, announced up to $47 million for distribution to various food nutrition assistance programs.
We should fight to protect Florida’s signature agriculture crop: orange juice. Florida’s orange juice inventory increased significantly and unexpectedly after the devastation of Hurricane Irma. However, because the processors entered into agreements with international orange juice companies, the domestic supply substantially exceeds the projected need, forcing extreme downward pressure on prices for growers. The Florida Department of Citrus projects an average price of $1.62 per pound solid for oranges picked through March, which is nearly a dollar less from the 2017-2018 average price of $2.59 per pound solids.
After many years of setbacks in the orange juice industry due to citrus greening and hurricanes, it is uniquely important to protect growers this year.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.