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Florida is the largest citrus producer in the U.S. and the second largest producer of orange juice in the world. The industry has a $9 billion a year economic impact on the state accounting for about 76,000 jobs. Not long ago, citrus groves covered about 800,000 acres of land in Florida. Today, that’s down to just over 400,000 acres due in large part to the devastating impacts of citrus diseases like greening. The disease, which originated in Southern China, was first discovered in South Florida in 2005 and has since become endemic throughout the state’s citrus producing regions.

This week, just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its citrus harvest estimate for the current season, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman announced he’s calling on lawmakers to increase funding to fight greening and secure the industry’s future. Meanwhile the Fort Myers-based Alico, Inc. announced last month it’s buying three citrus operations in central Florida for $363 million dollars making the company the largest citrus producer in the U.S. We’ll explore the status of Florida’s current citrus crop, the value of the state’s citrus industry and ongoing efforts to develop new strategies to combat greening. 

Low Gas Prices Increase Holiday Traveling

Dec 24, 2014
Fizscy via Flickr

With gas prices the lowest they've been since May 2009, Floridians are traveling by road in record high numbers for the holidays. The American Automobile Association is expecting 4.6 million people to travel by car in Florida during the holidays.

That’s the highest number of motorists on the road since 2006.

Florida Power and Light

The state’s utilities regulator signed-off on a plan that allows FPL to charge its customers for a $190 million investment into a fracking project in Oklahoma. FPL’s representatives said this will save Floridians money in the long-run, but others have warned this decision sets a bad precedent.

openclipart.org

According to the latest data from the research firm RealtyTrac, Florida still leads the nation in home foreclosures with foreclosure filings on one out of 462 housing units in the state. However, foreclosures are trending downward significantly and experts predict home prices in Southwest Florida will continue rising. Meanwhile, the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey identifies Lee County as among the strongest markets in the nation for hiring demand going into 2015. We’ll explore the region’s current economic and employment conditions and predictions as we prepare to enter 2015. 

Ashley Lopez / WGCU

Ahead of the holidays, ground-workers for Southwest Airlines want the company to end lengthy contract negotiations and raise wages. A small group of union members picketed at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers Tuesday.

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