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Hurner wins citrus service award at growers meeting


Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 05:25 PM
SEBRING -

Without Tim Hurner, John Gose wouldn't be in the citrus business today.

In fact, Gose told the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association at their 23rd annual meeting Thursday, a former college professor once told him that Tim Hurner was keeping track of him.

When Gose found out, Hurner admitted Gose's father and mother asked for reports. Admittedly, Gose was misspending his educational opportunities.

"If anything happens," Hurner warned Gose, to the laughter of the crowd, "I'm not paying for your education."

Hurner, who was Highlands County's citrus agent until his retirement last year, was presented the Distinguished Service Award from California via video.

"He's been a mentor to me and many of you," said Gose, the 2006 grower's association president, "and he's been a valuable resource to everyone in the room."

The capacity ballroom crowd gave Hurner a standing ovation as Hurner received a plaque.

Gov. Rick Scott also appeared via video, telling the crowd in a one-minute speech that he has proposed a $5 million citrus research budget.

Highlands County is the second largest citrus-producing county in Florida, so the governor sees the research money as an insurance policy on the health of the industry, which has been beset for more than a decade by canker and in the past eight years by greening.

The crowd was also addressed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and chief financial officer Jeff Atwater about the state of affairs in Washington and the Florida economy.

Both the automatic spending cut — called sequestration — and raising the debt limit could collapse the national economy, Rooney suggested.

The citrus industry has real needs, said Rooney. "We need to make sure with everything going on that the citrus industry doesn't lose ground. I didn't grow up on a farm, but I've toured a whole heck of a lot of groves since then."

Rooney also "can't get a straight answer or get my arms around how agriculture is being treated, and it's a deal breaker for me if we're being left out — if agriculture doesn't have a seat at the table with the talks about comprehensive immigration reform."

Atwater, a former state representative from Palm Beach, was president of the Florida Senate from 2008-2010.

"The (research) dollars will come," Atwater assured the growers. Although, he commiserated, the state "overlooks the upside of research and will spend more money widening 2 miles of road for a new company coming to Florida."

Outgoing President Clay Wilson reminded the growers that although they should be pessimistic when they see their crops lying on the ground, "As long as there is someone out there willing to buy your product, there is someone who is willing to grow it."

"There is hope," said 2013 president Jim Snively, who also served a presidential term in 1998. He attended Orlando's international conference two weeks ago on HLB — citrus greening.

He's been to many such conferences. "But I've finally come home excited. You're going to see your (research and development) money has been well spent."


gpinnell@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5828
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