CITRUS In March 2016, following approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam permitted Florida orange growers to spray three anti-bacterial chemicals on their trees in an effort to curb citrus greening. The EPA initially approved the use of the anti-bacterials until December 31st. Early research shows the chemicals are effectively reducing fruit drop and the EPA has reapproved their use until the end of 2017.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s latest estimates show this season’s orange crop has declined just a little more than 1 percent, to 71 million boxes from the November and December forecasts of 72 million boxes. This is an improvement from the January 2016 report, which saw a 14 percent decline in oranges to 69 million boxes from its initial forecast of 80 million boxes.
EXOTIC LIZARDS THREATENING EVERGLADES Argentine black and white tegu lizards are not only legal, they can be purchased from pet stores all over South Florida. State wildlife officers are trapping and killing escaped and released pets in the Everglades, where these cold-tolerant pests are destroying bird and turtle nests and increasing their population around the state. There is debate on how to best protect our state from their threat. Legislation is pending that would provide funds for a hunt; other ideas include banning the pets. The lizards eat fruit, vegetables, insects, lizards and love dog and cat food. They invade the nests of ground-nesting birds, crocodiles, alligators, and gopher tortoises, consuming their eggs.
FLORIDA POLYTECHNIC January 3rd was graduation day for the first class of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland with 18 students earning technology and engineering degrees. The University opened in August 2014 with just over 550 students. By the fall of 2016, PolyTech had 1,300 students.
HURRICANE MATTHEW CLAIMS The Florida Office of Insurance report over 115,000 claims filed with 85 percent of them closed as of early January due to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew. That amounts to about $803 million, with the majority of the cases in Duval, St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties.