Citrus growers could be free of marketing tax

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The Florida Citrus Commission has approved a proposal to allow
citrus growers to opt out of paying taxes that support its
marketing program, according to the Florida Ledger.

The change in the state law governing the Florida Department of Citrus would only take effect, however, if the state Supreme Court rules against the department in a lawsuit challenging its taxing authority, reported the online publication, after a meeting on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court is said to be considering a lawsuit brought by six of the state's largest growers claiming the tax supporting the citrus department's advertising for orange and grapefruit juice is unconstitutional.

It it debateable, though, whether the changes would take place this year as the court will not hear the case before the legislature adjourns in May. That could put the department's ability to collect taxes and spend money for advertising in doubt until the 2006 legislative session, suggested the Ledger.

At Wednesday's meeting commissioners also approved the creating of a panel of citrus industry economists to review research on the effectiveness of generic advertising for agricultural commodities, whereby advertisements would promote a commodity, such as orange juice, without mentioning brand names.

The panel would report back to the department in 30 to 45 days, said Dan Gunter, the department's executive director.

A survey of citrus industry leaders had showed that a new strategic plan for the citrus department should be based on increasing the market for orange juice and other citrus products.

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