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Steady Florida orange forecast a relief

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly forecast of the 2013-14 Florida orange crop released Monday stayed at 115 million boxes: Early-mid orange varieties held steady at 54 million boxes, and Valencia oranges remained at 61 million boxes.

"Growers are battling HLB on a daily basis so it's somewhat of a relief that the crop remained the same as we shift to our Valencia harvest," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. "The good news is that Congress and President Obama passed and signed a farm bill that contains $125 million over the next five years for citrus research.

"The investment in our industry will most certainly pay dividends as the best and brightest minds are working to solve this puzzle," he said.

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year — although this year's initial estimate was delayed until Nov. 8 — and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.

During the 2012-13 season, Florida produced 133.6 million boxes of oranges. Visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate.

The USDA's estimate of the 2013-14 Florida grapefruit crop rose slightly to 17 million boxes, up from 16.5 million boxes. Specialty fruit is now at 4.3 million boxes, down 100,000.

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, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state's largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.