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Florida Citrus Forecast Gloomy Again

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Congressman Darren Soto say retaliatory tariffs on American goods are hurting Florida farmers.

Florida's citrus industry, on pace for its worst harvest in five decades, continues to get troubling news.

Mark Hudson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Statistics Board, said Thursday that Florida's citrus industry is now on pace to produce enough oranges to fill 70 million 90-pound boxes during the current crop season.

The forecast had grown to 72 million boxes in November, but has slowly been trending down. In January, the forecast had fallen to 71 million boxes. The 70 million boxes, which was the same amount forecast when the season opened in October, would represent a 14.2 percent decrease from the 2015-2016 season.

Hudson said the latest numbers are based, in part, on what officials are seeing as the mid-season crop is being harvested. Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus said the industry hopes "for higher numbers of Valencia (orange) production as we continue through the second half of the season."

Florida, which accounted for 49 percent of total U.S. citrus production in the past growing season, has been struggling for a decade with citrus greening, an incurable bacterial disease. During the decade before the disease was found, the state's orange harvest annually topped 200 million boxes, with a high of 244 million boxes in the 1997-1998 season.

Meanwhile, grapefruit production held at 9 million 90-pound boxes from the January to February forecasts. The outlook for grapefruit started the current season at 9.6 million boxes, down from 10.8 million boxes filled in 2015-2016.

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