Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., introduced the “Defending Domestic Orange Juice Production Act.”
The bill “would direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lower the required level of sugar/solids content (brix standard) in not-from-concentrate pasteurized orange juice from 10.5 percent weight of orange juice soluble solids to 10 percent.”
The Florida delegation threw its support behind the proposal. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is co-sponsoring Rubio’s proposal in the U.S. Senate. On the other end of Capitol Hill, U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Kat Cammack, R-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Scott Franklin, R-Fla., Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., Greg Steube, R-Fla., and Dan Webster, R-Fla., are backing Diaz-Balart’s proposal.
The members of the Florida delegation explained why they are backing the proposal.
“Forcing the orange juice industry to import and mix juice from foreign oranges to meet an arbitrary FDA standard would mean the end of Florida orange juice,” Rubio said. “This common sense bill will provide relief to Florida citrus growers and processors who have faced challenges in recent years due to disease and hurricanes, and allow them to continue marketing Florida orange juice.”
“In recent years, Florida citrus has faced significant challenges such as pests, disease, and severe weather, which has had a devastating impact on Florida’s citrus growers and processors,” Diaz Balart said. “Lowering the minimum requirement of fruit sugar levels in Florida’s orange juice not only maintains the same quality it has always been known for, but it also ensures that our growers and processors have the flexibility to continue producing in Florida and not depend on foreign imports that will increase prices for consumers and threaten the very existence of the industry.”
“Florida’s citrus growers work incredibly hard to make sure American families can drink delicious, fresh from Florida orange juice,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, growers across our state have faced hardship in recent years due to crop disease and severe weather. I’m proud to join Senator Rubio to introduce legislation which thoughtfully amends citrus standards, keeps healthy Florida orange juice on the shelves and supports the needs of our citrus growers.”
“Florida grows the best oranges, but pests, diseases, and extreme weather are ravaging Florida’s citrus growers and processors. These conditions resulted in a natural decline in Brix levels in our mature oranges. For most of last season, Florida oranges did not meet the federal minimum standard of 10.5 degrees Brix, a standard adopted decades ago, at a time when climate change was mostly unknown,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Despite the natural changes to Brix levels, there are no known adverse health consequences for consumers. This bill would provide Florida citrus growers and processors with needed flexibility so that they can continue to produce the world’s best oranges—without sacrificing the quality and taste that we all love.”
“Florida’s citrus industry has fought tooth and nail over the last several decades to survive,” Cammack said. “They need our help now and cutting through bureaucratic red tape to continue delivering the Florida orange juice we know and love will keep one of the Sunshine State’s most iconic products moving. I’m pleased to join the Florida congressional delegation on this important effort.”
“Florida’s citrus industry is a critical component of our agricultural economy and the Sunshine State is the largest producer of orange juice in the nation,” Webster said. “Our citrus farmers, their employees and the Americans who enjoy Florida orange juice shouldn’t be denied this staple drink because of some arbitrary FDA standard. This legislation is a commonsense solution for our citrus growers to continue to provide the best oranges and orange juice in the world.”
“Florida orange juice is an American staple the Sunshine State proudly produces and exports around the country,” Salazar said. “With recent challenges and changes in our natural environment, citrus farmers in our state need updated standards to continue growing and providing this delicious beverage. I am pleased to join my Floridian colleagues on this important legislation to help our industry and American consumers.”
“We support our Florida citrus growers and their efforts to continue successfully making delicious orange juice for American families,” Soto said. “By making this necessary change to the brix standard, we are accommodating to the challenges of recent years and helping our growers maintain their livelihoods.”
“Every effort needs to be made to ensure that Florida citrus growers continue to have access to the markets, the opportunity to compete, and the ability to sell their world-class oranges,” Posey said.
“Florida’s citrus industry supports thousands of jobs across the state and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in sales,” Rutherford said. “Sadly, extreme weather and disease have caused significant challenges for growers, threatening their livelihood. Our bill would support growers by updating federal standards and allow for more Florida oranges to be processed into nutritious orange juice.
“In recent years, Florida’s citrus industry has faced debilitating challenges,” Gimenez said. “We must provide Florida’s growers and processors the necessary tools to continue orange juice production in our state. This legislation would do just that and provide the citrus industry with the flexibility needed to remain viable.”
“Very few things are as synonymous with the Sunshine State as fresh Florida orange juice,” Buchanan said. “Sadly, Florida’s citrus growers have struggled with extreme weather and citrus greening for years, meaning their ability to produce world-class orange juice has suffered. I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Rubio to support our citrus growers, ensure their product stays on grocery store shelves nationwide and maintain the superior taste and quality of Florida orange juice.”
Rubio’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Diaz-Balart’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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