By Clint Thompson
Georgia citrus farmers and industry leaders scored a legislative victory on Monday when the state Senate overwhelmingly passed the proposal to start a Georgia Citrus Commission. The win for the industry will come when Gov. Brian Kemp signs it into law.
The legislation states, “There shall be an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits established on July 1, 2023.” The full text can be read here.
Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association, is excited about the potential of a commission following the Senate’s 47-3 passage.
“What this is doing is putting some skin in the game. We’ve asked for so much from the state and the university to support the industry. You can’t keep coming to the table and asking without doing something yourself to support it,” Savelle says. “We feel like this is going to be really good for research and education and marketing.”
Georgia’s citrus crop, largely comprised of satsuma mandarins, survived a big challenge this winter following multiple days of sub-freezing temperatures during the Christmas holiday. Savelle believes that tree survival speaks to the long-term future of the industry in Georgia. She notes that many of the state’s citrus trees lived through 48 hours of temperatures in the teens.
“When we first started years ago, people were skeptical of whether or not citrus was going to be a viable commodity. Over time, we’ve continued to grow,” Savelle says. “I think that arctic blast we had in December proved that we can really do this here.”
The overwhelming support shown by the Senate followed a unanimous passage through Georgia’s House of Representatives. Savelle and industry leaders believe the legislation will go to Kemp to be signed in a short timeframe.
“To me, it sends a signal that people believe in this industry now. It makes me feel good because we’ve had some naysayers,” Savelle concludes.