Florida Citrus Mutual has praised US senator Marco Rubio for becoming a co-sponsor of a measure that would provide growers with an incentive to plant more trees and bolster the troubled Florida citrus industry.
Rubio joined original sponsor US senator Bill Nelson in championing The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act which allows growers to immediately expense the cost of planting new citrus instead of the standard 14 year depreciation period under the current IRS rules.
The tweak to the IRS code is designed to increase slumping production. It would be available for ten years.
Rubio, along with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, toured a grove outside of Auburndale, Florida on Thursday to get an update on the state of the industry. He said he will push hard for the IRS legislation.
Michael Sparks, executive vice-president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, thanked Rubio and other members of the Florida Congressional delegation for their steadfast support of the industry.
"By some estimates our industry needs to put more than 20m trees in the ground over the next ten years to support existing infrastructure and get our production back to where it was before HLB," said Sparks. "We offer a sincere thank you to senator Rubio, senator Nelson and Rep Vern Buchanan as well as other members of the Florida Congressional delegation for their support of this important bill. It is truly a bipartisan effort and reflects the fact that Florida's elected officials understand the citrus' vital economic role."
Florida growers are now battling citrus greening, or HLB, a bacterial disease vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid. It attacks the vascular system of a tree and can kill it within two years. Citrus greening is endemic to Florida and has reduced production more than 50 per cent over the past decade.