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Agriculture Press Release

June 18, 2002

Bronson announces $5 million in federal grants to promote and market Florida products

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced that $5 million in federal grants will be used to enhance the worldwide promotion and marketing of Florida agricultural specialty crops.

The grants were provided to Florida by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of federal legislation to help ease the continued economic crisis affecting American agricultural producers. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services solicited proposals from Florida producers and awarded the grants through a competitive bid process.

"Promotional and marketing efforts are essential to expanding Florida’s position as an agricultural exporter," Bronson said. "These grants will be used by Florida producers to help defray the costs of promoting their products and the ‘Florida’ name, both at home and abroad."

In late 2001, Bronson began soliciting input from various segments of the Florida agricultural industry, and formed a panel to determine the areas of critical need where the federal funds could be utilized most effectively. The panel -- which included representatives from agricultural associations, growers and state agencies -- proposed that the grants be used for initiatives that help promote and market the state’s specialty crops.

"Many smaller producers are unable to bear the costs of promotion and marketing alone, and often miss opportunities to penetrate new markets," Bronson said. "These federal grants will enable them to promote their products in innovative ways that previously were cost-prohibitive."

Bronson said the Department will continue to monitor each of the grant initiatives to ensure the overall industry growth and responsible spending.

"I’m looking for high returns on our investments," Bronson said. "While many different groups will have various responsibilities, we’ll maintain overall accountability through well-defined contractual agreements. All of the grant recipients should expect us to stay involved."

Grants were awarded to the following Florida entities:

Florida Sweet Corn Exchange, $1.627 million
Funds will be used to conduct a national marketing campaign to increase consumer and retail purchase of sweet corn. The program is a coordinated initiative targeted toward retailers, consumers, research and food service. The food service portion of the program is predominantly educational and geared to make buyers, chefs, and menu planners more aware of the positive attributes of using fresh sweet corn.

Florida Strawberry Growers Association, $140,000
Funds will be used for a marketing initiative to reach new markets in the northeastern United States and Canada. Activities will focus on gaining new participation for the Florida strawberry promotional campaign from retailers in the targeted areas. Activities will include retail display contests, point-of-purchase materials and advertising.

Florida Tomato Committee, $500,000
Funds will be used for a multi-regional marketing program to increase consumption of Florida tomatoes. This will include retail campaigns, promotional activities geared to food service operators, food wholesalers and consumers. The program includes consumer education and will include regional and national ads highlighting the health benefits of tomatoes. Retail and food service will involve expansion of the retail market to increase sales of Florida tomatoes.

Tropical Fruit Advisory Council, $636,680
Funds will be used to conduct promotional and educational activities as part of a year-long program to increase knowledge and preference of Florida tropical fruit. Activities will include participation in consumer, culinary and food service events on a national level.

Florida Organic Growers, $175,500
Funds will be used for a program to help Florida specialty crop growers take advantage of and remain competitive in the organic marketplace. Educational components of the program will help growers enter into or continue in the organic industry by providing certification and inspection training to comply with the soon-to-be-implemented National Organics Program (NOP). Producers compliant with NOP have increased market opportunities and demand. Funding will provide a cost share program to provide grower certification.

Sunnyridge Farms, $360,017
Funds will be used to conduct blueberry market research and testing activities. The initiative will increase the shelf life of fresh blueberries, encouraging retailers to purchase and promote fresh-sealed Florida blueberry snack pack portions. Extended shelf life and packaging will also allow Florida growers to sell and ship to more regions, and regain a share of the international market.

Citrus Growers Association (CGA), $150,000
Funds will be used to develop and publicize a direct-sell system to allow citrus growers to sell and ship directly to consumers. The program will address the logistics and opportunities for growers to sell to out-of-state commercial markets, fruit stands, farmers’ markets, independent grocers and restaurants. The direct-sell market research also includes market studies for in-store and in-restaurant fresh juice. CGA will provide research analysis on fresh juice preservation, seek protocols for use, and provide information to interested growers.

Florida Nursery Growers Association (FNGA), $163,275
Funds will be used to launch domestic and international marketing activities. FNGA will participate in the International Trade Show and Mission scheduled for January 2003. The event provides an opportunity to showcase Florida horticulture in the European market and meet importers and wholesalers. Participation also increases Florida’s visibility among consumers and retailers in the international market. Domestic marketing initiatives will include partnering with Epcot to design and showcase a Florida horticulture exhibit as part of the International Flower and Garden Festival. FNGA will also use funding to publish and distribute a Florida nursery products guide and source locator.

Florida Organic Growers Neighborhood Nutrition Network, $198,000
Funding will be used to develop a local food marketing campaign for North Florida to assist specialty crop producers by expanding a permanent local customer base. The program includes a "buy" local label program, consumer education activities, and a farmers’ market promotional campaign to educate consumers and connect schools to local farms as agricultural learning links. The activities focus on expanding direct marketing channels for specialty crop producers.

Graves Brothers Company, $83,000
Funds will be used to conduct a program to increase the domestic and international sales of fresh Florida citrus. Marketing efforts will concentrate on advertising and providing in-store tasting opportunities in targeted stores throughout the United States and Canada. Additional marketing activities are set for China to further strengthen the presence and desirability of Florida citrus in the Pacific Rim markets.

Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC), $980,000
Funds will be used to launch a public awareness program to provide accurate information on the interaction of prescription medications with grapefruit. The communications framework will reinforce the health benefits of grapefruit and grapefruit juice. Information will be provided to consumers and medical professionals to dispel inaccurate information and stabilize Florida’s marketability. FDOC will also initiate an aggressive marketing campaign to place higher recognition and demand for "Florida Citrus." Funding provides for the creation of marketing materials to provide brand recognition for Florida and differentiate from competitors that may be more readily identified by consumers. The marketing campaign will include advertising and point-of-purchase materials in retail and food establishments. The brand recognition and differentiation will help growers continue to build the "Florida" franchise by identifying Florida products as the premium choice among consumers and retailers.

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