Ag news briefs
Central Florida's Agri-LeaderMANHATTAN, Kan. - Orange crop estimate drops by 2 million boxes
Published: April 18, 2012
Published: April 18, 2012
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its orange crop forecast for the 2011-12 season by 2 million boxes last Tuesday, estimating Florida will now produce 145 million boxes.
"It's truly amazing Florida growers can once again produce such a quality crop in the face of immense challenges such as HLB, or citrus greening," said Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.
"This is a testament to the resiliency of our growers and the fact they are the best in the world, bar none."
The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July. During the 2010-11 season, Florida produced 139 million boxes of oranges.
The 2011-12 April decrease was seen entirely in Valencias, with the estimate dropping from 73 million to 71 million boxes. Early and mid-season varieties remained at 74 million boxes.
For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA predicts 1.15 million boxes of tangelos and 4.3 million boxes of tangerines. Those numbers are unchanged from March.
The yield for "from concentrate" orange juice decreased to 1.62 gallons per 90-pound box from the previous estimate of 1.64 gallons per box.
The USDA predicts Florida will harvest 18.8 million boxes of grapefruit this season, showing a minor rise from the March forecast of 18.7 million.
The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people and covering about 550,000 acres.
Founded in 1948 and now representing nearly 8,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state's largest citrus grower organization. For details, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.
Farm bureau applauds Rubio's estate tax stance
Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick praised U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for his enthusiastic support of legislation that would help preserve family farms. The proposed legislation will help shield farm operations from the potentially overwhelming burden of the federal estate tax.
"We greatly appreciate Sen. Rubio's good efforts to eliminate what amounts to be a death tax for the current generation of farm producers," Hoblick said.
"The federal estate tax is scheduled to increase substantially in 2013. Unless Congress acts this year, many families will not be able to transfer farms and ranches to the next generation because they cannot afford to pay the tax without selling off their lands."
The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2012 introduced into the Senate April 1, would eliminate the estate tax. A similar bill has been introduced into the U.S. House.
Hoblick also expressed his appreciation for more than 200 other members of Congress who have now agreed to co-sponsor the two bills.
"These elected leaders have shown how the Congress can act responsibly and effectively to meet a real need," Hoblick said.
Florida Farm Bureau is the state's largest general agricultural organization, with more than 140,000 member-families and bureaus in 60 counties.
Farmers introduce smart phone application
Two farmers have developed a smart phone application to help manage their farms even while they're still sitting on their tractors.
Jacob Fannik of Max, N.D., and Ryan Raguse of Wheaton, Minn., developed Virtual Farm Manager to keep notes, store yield records and sync information with web accounts for computer access.
"The spark behind this came from growing up on a farm," said Fannik. "A farmer has to get in and out of the tractor, get into the house, make a bunch of calls, be so many places at once and still be behind the wheel of a tractor."
Fannik and Raguse said farmers are increasingly using smart phone technology to manage their land. Their app uses the phone's GPS to track and map equipment as it goes up and down fields planting seeds or spreading fertilizer. It also can let multiple workers simultaneously view activity on a field.
Raguse said there are many variations of this management technology but he doesn't know of any that allow farmers to access it on a cell phone.
"Rather than running around with notebooks all the time, the farmer can just send it back to the computer," he said.
The app has been released for Android phones. An iPhone version will follow.
USDA secretary touts importance of bio project
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University should move forward and not be considered a "parochial" issue relevant only to Kansas.
Vilsack said having the proposed $650 million research facility is important to ensure the United States continues to have a safe and adequate food supply.
Kansas was awarded the NBAF project in 2010 to replace an aging USDA facility at Plum Island, N.Y. The lab would handle research on a host of deadly agricultural pathogens.
Critics have said moving such research to the mainland would put the nation's food supply and security at unnecessary risk.
Vilsack said a recent revised risk assessment that put the chance of the release of a deadly animal pathogen such as foot-and-mouth disease at one-tenth of 1 percent. Vilsack said that was an indication of how safe NBAF was being designed and would be constructed to protect the nation's food supply.
However, the proposed 2013 federal budget does not contain funding for NBAF construction and instead calls for the Department of Homeland Security to reassess the project. The budget does include $10 million to begin transferring some research from Plum Island to Kansas State's Biosecurity Research Institute on certain swine diseases.
"We're going to continue to work with members of Congress to figure out how and when, with difficult and tight budgets, we can fund this," Vilsack said.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas said Vilsack understands the need for the lab and that if there were a deadly food safety outbreak it would fall to USDA to solve.
"He stands squarely behind this project and has said where there's a will there's a way," Roberts said.
Vilsack called Plum Island "antiquated" and not worth the money needed to extend its life.