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interviewed by William Mansfield.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (69 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Florida citrus oral history project
The interview focuses on Edward's national view of the citrus industry and the lawsuit against the Department of Florida Citrus. He discusses the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee (CTOC) and CTOC organization, decision making processes, coalition building and lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. with Karl Rove, Ken Melman, and Cabinet Secretaries Anne Veneman and Don Evans and US Trade Representative, Robert Zellick.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted July 1, 2005, in Vero Beach, Fla.
Citrus fruit industry
Orange juice industry
Citrus fruit industry
x Law and legislation
Florida Citrus Mutual.
Tariff on oranges.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
University of South Florida.
Globalization Research Center.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0
Citrus Oral History Project Globalization Research Center University of South Florida Interview with: Ron Edwards Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Vero Beach, Florida Date: July 1, 2005 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Ron Edwards & Wm. Mansfie ld [Tape 1, Side A.] Bill Mansfield: I always but a label on the disk by saying, This is Bill Mansfield from the University of South Floridas Globalization Research Center talking with Mr. Ron Edwards in the Evans Properties offices here in Vero Beach, Florida on July 1, 2005. And Mr. Edwards, we always get people to start out by having them state their name and telling when they were born and where they were born. So let her go. Ron Edwards: My name is Ron Edwards. Im ah born February 24, 1948 in Jac ksonville, Florida. Mansfield: Okay and tell me about your education. Edwards: I went to the University of Florida, majored in business administration, with a major in accounting. Then I went on to graduate school in accounting. Did everything but finis h my thesis. Mansfield: ABT I think they call that, All but thesis. Edwards: [laughs] All but thesis. Mansfield: Was this at the University of Florida too? Edwards: Yes, at the University of Florida.
2 Mansfield: And how did you get connected in the citr us industry? Edwards: Well, I went to work in public accounting in Atlanta, Ernst & Er nst at the time one of the big eight [accounting firms]. One of my clients was Tropicana Products, which at that time was a bout a hundred million dollar company th at was public, on the New Yo r k Stock Exchange in the orange juice business; kind of a start up an early forerunner in the citrus business. I worked on that audit for four years and ultimately they hired me as their controller. I then spent eleven years, fro m 1975 to 1986, with Tropicana. In the last five years I rose to executive vice president and chief operating officer. So, I got to see a little bit of everything on the processing and marketing and accounting [chuckles]. They were a public company at tha t time As I said, I started out in accounting. Then [I worked in] production, quality control, marketing, fruit procurement. Spent a lot of time in Brazil, that was when the freezes in 80s, when there were few oranges here. I spent a lot of time down there acquiring citrus for Tropicana. [I was also in] Mexico and anywhere that oranges grew, besides Florida. Mansfield: Describe your current occupation. Edwards: Currently Im president and CEO of Evans Properties, Inc., Which is a large citrus grower that operates in about eight counties in Florida. We have about 25,000 acres of citrus, fresh and processed. We export to Europe and Japan, in the fresh business. Currently all of the oranges that we grow are sold to Tropicana. [pa use] Ive been here eighteen years, I guess. Mansfield: Okay. You really came into citrus from the accounting end of the business? Edwards: Yeah, I guess thats how I got started in from the processing and marketing side of the business. And in there too I had about a year and a half with ConAgra, which
3 was an importer of juice from Brazil and Mexico. So, I saw that side of the business as well. Ive kind of worked in all of the different parts at one time or another. Mansfield: Okay. In the 80s you w ent down to Brazil to secure oranges for Edwards: Well, concentrate primarily. Mansfield: Tell me about that. From what I understand, and correct me if Im wrong, the Brazilian citrus industry was not as developed then as it is now. The freezes of the 80s showed them Edwards: It was not as big as it is now, but the freezes in the 60s, kind of the first round, is what started the Brazilian citrus industry, when a couple of companies from Florida went down there and put in processing plants Evans Properties [the company I work for now] was in the processing business back then. They dont have a processing plant now, but they were [processing orange juice] and they had one [at that time] L ykes started Citrosuco. A guy named Horst Happel who ran Citrosuco Mansfield: Who now? Edwards: Horst Happel. Mansfield: Horst Happel? Edwards: He worked for Evans Packing Company in Dade City for a while. Learned the citrus business. He was the quality control guy for one of the European companies that was buying juice from Evans. Learned citrus here and ended up going down [to Brazil] and running that plant and was one of the two major people, who were fundamental in developing the citrus i ndustry. Horst Happel, with Citrosuco and Jose Louis Cutrale, the Cutrale Family who run it now.
4 Citrosuco was F isher and Ec k es were the two companies that owned it. Horst came from Ec k es. He ran Citrosuco and Cutrale ran Cutrale. And those two were at your throat competitors over a twenty or thirty year period there. Mansfield: And its Horst Happel? Edwards: [spells] H O R S T H A P P E L, a German. I wasnt saying that very clearly. Mansfield: Okay. When you went down to Brazil back in t he 80s, what can you tell me about that? Edwards: It was pretty developed industry at the point. It was as developed as Florida, at that point. You know it was probably just somewhat smaller. But the freezes in the 80s, with the big demand in the United States and no [oranges in] Florida to service it was big prices and big demand. It put them on the map started them to become the behemoth that they are today. Mansfield: Did you have any idea that, that would be the beginning of uh the big rivalry. Like you said, it turned them into the behemoth? Edwards: Yeah, probably we did, think that. We knew that we didnt have much choice. I mean Florida in some ways the Brazilian industry also helped maintain the market [for orange juice] in the United States. H aving a secondary supplier like Brazil made branded companies will ing to invest the money that it took to build national brands, where they have an assurance of supply. As long as all the oranges in the world came from ten or twelve counties in Florida, that s not a very safe supply. So they kept the product on the market when we didnt have it. But, on the other hand, they turned into a major competitor. Mansfield: The five hundred pound gorilla, isnt that how you described it?
5 Edwards: I said the eig ht hundred pound gorilla. [laughs] Mansfield: Okay. So lets fast froward from then until recently, with the Free Trade Area of the Americas, FTAA and the possibility of removing the tariff. Tell me about your experience with that. Edwards: Well, obviou sly the tariff that exists today the tariff has eroded somewhat over time. It started out 20% higher than it is today. The GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] took out some of it I believe it went from about thirty five down to twenty nine cents, under GATT. That differential is roughly the difference between Brazils cost of production and delivering it here and what you can do it for in Florida. Probably today theyre able to they have enough of an advantage on us that it even exceeds the tari ff. They can, obviously, ship it here and still make a profit W ithout [ th e t ariff] we wouldnt have a chance, were dead in the water. Mansfield: Tell me about your work to keep the tariff in place. What t he Citrus Tariff Over sigh t Committee? Edwards: Yes. Ma nsfield: How did you get connected with that? Edwards: I guess there were a group of industry people who had a lot at stake in maintaining the tariff. In order to maintain the value of the assets that are invested here in Florida and through Citrus Mutua l, which is historically been the entity that the growers have used to fight trade battles on tariffs. When the FTAA and the World Trade Organization [WTO] considered changing the tariff, that [CTOC] was the vehicle that was formed in order to bring a dive rse group of people with interests [in Florida citrus together.] [Including] most of the larger citrus organizations as well as regionally and different political affiliations, but sort of a cross section of the industry to guide the strategy that was goi ng to be used to try and maintain the tariff.
6 Mansfield: This is the Oversight Committee? Edwards: Right. Mansfield: And how did you become part of it? Did they call you and ask? Did you volunteer your services? Tell me about that. Edwards: Im not s ure I exactly remember how it was. I guess, I think that I expressed an interest, obviously, because we have a lot of assets that are subject to what happens [with the tariff] and I have had a lot of experience in Brazil and the processing industry and imp orting juice. I knew the market. I knew all the players in the Brazilian Industry personally. So, I ended up being involved with it. Mansfield: As I recollect, it was the Department of Florida Citrus and Florida Citrus Mutual that put this to Edwards: F lorida Citrus Mutual put it together. There was a part initially how to fund it was a question. It was originally intended that that they were going to attempt to have the Department of Citrus collect the funds, that were going to be separately collected, because they had a taxation authority. It turned out that they the legal review determined that they really couldnt [finance it] through the Department of Citrus. So Mutual relied on the collection system that they currently use, where the processors coll ect the money for Mutual from growers to deliver fruit, if [the growers] authorize the deduction. Like they do for the Mutual dues, they added another penny and a half to it. There was a discussion about whether the Department of Citrus was going to assis t in that collection or not. At that time the executive director of the Department of Citrus was one of the members of the Tariff Oversight Committee. Mansfield: You said you expressed interest in serving on the committee, who did you [talk to ? ]
7 Edwards: I guess Andy LaVigne, at Citrus Mutual. Mansfield: So you were on the committee, tell me about the other people that were on the Committee. Edwards: There was I probably wont remember everybody. I could go get the list. Mansfield: Tell me about the ones you r emember. Edwards: Most of the large growers. Lets see who alls on there. I think Ben Hill Griffin is on there. Mike Carre r e with Lykes. Pat Carlton, a grower. Um Nelson, he was a grower. (I have the list. I could look at that.) But its a cross sec tion of growers all over the state. Lets see people from US Sugar, which had a citrus division. Mansfield: Who struck you as tell me about the leadership, or the drivers of the committee came out. I know some people will sit on a committee and do what theyre told and other people will be introducing ideas and sort of stuff. Edwards: That was a pretty aggressive group. There was certainly no one holding back their opinions in that group. In most cases they were the presidents of their companies, or le aders in it. Theres no lack of opinion. There was some controversy but generally everyone there was no disputing that Florida needs to maintain the tariff. There maybe some differences of opinion about how to go about it. There werent really a lot of b ig disputes. How much is the budget? What should we spend it on? How do we collect it? Whose going to do what to effect that? Mansfield: Tell me about the different strategies that were put forward to keep the tariff in place, to defend Florida citrus. Edwards: Well, its sort of a multiple, I mean there was a grass roots analysis of just what people in Florida think about citrus. We did some focus groups and market studies
8 to begin with, just to see what people felt about citrus, whether they lived in a citrus area or not. You know, Miami and South Florida doesnt really have that much of a citrus industry, nor does North Florida, Jacksonville or the panhandle. So we found that citrus had a very good perception, among people in the citrus belt as well as the whole state. A lot of people identified citrus as what defined Florida. That [citrus] was a part of what [Florida] was. We asked questions about, just understanding what the average guy understood about tariffs and orange juice, and is it importa nt? Do you think Florida growers are subsidized or not? You know a lot of people probably half the people thought the Florida citrus industry is subsidized. Which it is not. The tariff is a tax on imported juice but Florida growers get no subsides. Where most people who think about agriculture [think about the] Mid west, where everything is subsidized. Mansfield: Like tobacco in North Carolina. Edwards: Tobacco, most I mean very few crops arent subsidized somehow or another, so When people heard that it wa snt they were really supportive of it. So we started out in a real good position. Then we thought we had a localized public relations campaign to make sure [we] had the grass roots support of those ideas and to communicate and educate the story. We had a series of thinks that are probably different than most of the I mean nobody wants their ox gored right? You know, I want to protect my product. But we thought we had some pretty good arguing points about what is different about citrus. One being that, usually, when you remove a tariff, the consumer stands to benefit by getting the product more cheaply. But in the case of this situation, where you have an oligarchy, or almost a monopoly of only three or four families that control all of the citrus in Bra zil, we are the only competition that holds them down. If you take out the other competitor [Florida], then the monopoly [Brazil] is going to price [orange juice as th e y see fit ] So in the long run, US consumers are not really going to get orange juice at a lower price. And, youre goi ng to lose an important industry that employs several hundred thousand people in Florida. Its a nine billion dollar industry. Its the second
9 biggest thing, next to tourism, in Florida. In many ways its a way of life and adds a whole lot of importance the small towns and counties [of the citrus belt] that rely on not just the citrus but the related [business]. You know, the farm implement dealers, fertilizer and pesticide sales, the support infrastructure, the support for the schools ands that sort of thing. An d the alternative, if that eight hundred thousand acres of citrus were to go away, whats going to replace it? Condominiums? Brazilian peppers? You know thats a tree that is not indigenous to Florida and takes over everything. In South Florida the Brazilian pepper tree just its ironic that its a Brazilian pepper tree. So there are a lot of environmental [issues]. Water recharge people just like to ride by and see citrus groves. So we thought we had a good story and it really made sense economicall y. Its true. Its easy to [understand]. And those facts supported by economic studies and analysis that resonated with the individual person living here, whether they were a long time resident or newly moved to the state. That same message carried wel l in Washington. We hired what we thought was as a good lobby firm in Washington, to help get us in front of the right people. And to tell our message to the right people. We made a lot of trips to Washington with representatives of the industry to tell the story. We had, you know, Adam Putnam, whos a congressman. Maybe youve spoken with him? Mansfield: Ive tried to set up an appointment with him. Edwards: But he and his family are citrus growers. Hes been influential in making sure that his consti tuents and the whole industry got in front of the right people. Hes been incredibly important to that process. The whole Florida delegation has [been]. When we went up there we got to see everybody. Wed see the top people in the White House, the Secreta ry of Agriculture, and the Trade Ambassador. Anybody that counted, we got to see them and they listened. Mansfield: Well, describe some of those visits, if you dont mind. In looking at the newspaper accounts and history, you hear, They me t with the rep resentatives and this
10 was the results. But if you could, give me a picture of what it looked like. Tell me about one of the trips where you spoke to Secretary of Agriculture or somebody in the White House or somebody in Congress. Tell me about one of tho se. Edwards: On most trips we would usually speak to someone in all of those places. When wed go [itd be for] two or three days. I spoke with Karl Rove, in the White House. It was a political time in the election. Bush running for his second term, Flori da was the key, turning point in the first election and it was going to be [crucial] in the second one too. So this was a politics game as well as us telling an economic story. It was an important section of the voting group in Florida that was influential to help support the Bush campaign. Mansfield: Tell me about meeting with Karl Rove. Id be fascinated to find out what that was like. Edwards: Hes a very intelligent guy, obviously. He understood [laughs] what we wanted and they Ken Melman, who is now the head of the Republican Party at the time, was in those meetings. Mansfield: What did you say to Karl Rove? Edwards: We told that same story, about why should you decimate and industry and a state, to gain nothing for the US consumer? There is a big t rade off in the larger economic world, you know if they want to sell insurance and banking and financial services and telecommunications and software to Brazil and Brazil wants to sell agricultural products to the US? We didnt want to be sold out for that trade off, even thought it was, in the big picture. I mean free trade is good, if you can have fair trade. Which is a difficult thing to get. Because, you know, you never start off from an even base on both sides. In most cases the Third world countries t hat are wanting to [export] agricultural products [to the US] are really Third World countries. But Brazil, in citrus, is a First World country as far as their they have a larger and even more sophisticated industry in Brazil than you
11 really do in Florida to day. And today, ha lf of the Florida [processing] industry is owned by Brazilians. So theyve already taken over half of it there and maybe all of it there. Then youd really have a monopoly situation set up. But I mean [Brazil] is not an underdeveloped co untry, in the citrus aspect. There are certainly parts of their economy that are [underdeveloped] but their [citrus] industry is built with Florida technology. We took it down there. [In the beginning] the Brazilian industry was heavily subsidized by their government. And even though its not directly subsidizes now, once you plant a tree, its good for twenty five or thirty years. Once you build a processing plant or a roads, or the whole system, the infrastructure that supports and industry, once youve g ot that going youre going to have those benefits for years. Mansfield: So you all presented the practical, economic aspect of this argument to the President in Washington, but what about the political advantages that you presented to Mr. Rove? Edwards: We told him that we were a strong political group in those counties that grow citrus. Its an important thin g to those people and that is, basically, the I 4 Corridor, which is where the swing vote happened in the first election. Thats what gave Florida to Bush in the first Bush candidacy and that was going to be very important in the second one. So we were going to be of political assistance in their re election and we would hope that they would be able to support our needs as well. Mansfield: How did h e respond? Edwards: Eventually, just before the final election, Bush came and talked to Marty McKenna and spent some time in his grove with him. [See M a rty McKenna s interview with Bill Mansfield 5 13 05 ] He made the statement that he was going to make sure that Florida citrus growers were taken care of. He didnt come out and say Im not going to lower the tariff. He made a political statement that got message across that he wanted to leave, without committing himself, too much. I mean, you know, politicians can change when the wind is blowing the other way.
12 Mans field: I remember there were tariffs on steel imports that President Bush supported Edwards: And he got a lot of flak for it. Mansfield: And after the election he withdrew his support. So I was just wondering what kinds of concern you all might have abo ut that? Edwards: We certainly know that politics can change any time. This fights never over. As long as you have a tariff somebody is going to be trying to take it away. And the next president, or this one I mean we still got three years and a lot of t rade negotiation to go on right now. We may yet lose it. Mansfield: You met with Karl Rove in the White House and Ken Melman. What about Congress? Edwards: We met with all of our Florida delegation and we met, at different times, with the chairmen of Ag committees, finance committees, the ones that are in control of tariff matters and how and when they get to the floor. We met with Z o e l i ck, who was the T rade Ambassador. We had several meetings with him and his deputy [Allan] Johnson. We had some good spirited de bate about whether what we were saying was true. I think that in some cases Zellick didnt understand the citrus industry, per se. He has an astute academic knowledge of business and trade, but our particular [industry] he hadnt had too much time to spend on it. It isnt that big a deal, but it is politically sensitive because it is Florida. Mansfield: You say you had a spirited debate, could you describe it a little bit more? Edwards: He thought [about] opening trade for the fresh fruit industry, that we could export it. He felt like there was a two way street. That Florida was going to be able to
13 export products, if we got these other countries to open up. We had to explain to him that we were not going to be able to compete in exports because Brazil had such a commanding cost advantage over us. The rest of the world is their market. Opening certain markets that they had done, like Korea or Chile, for fresh fruit imports. Those are not markets that were going to export any significant amounts of fruit to. They dont buy that much and those were miniscule potential benefits for the damage that could be done to the larger industry, if Florida citrus goes. Mansfield: So Ambassador Z o e l i ck was countering your arguments with these ideas? Edwards: Yes. Ma nsfield: Do you feel that you changed his mind? Edwards: Well, I think we got our story across and I think he understood it more clearly. I think it was definitely better that we were there and we got to tell our story ourselves. You know, you got the peo ple that are doing it to tell. I mean you can study an industry from 20,000 feet, but not getting into the trenches of what you can do and not do. Who is benefiting and who isnt? Making inroads for the major juice markets and most of those countries don import anything from Florida any way, as far as fresh fruit [is concerned]. Mansfield: In order to set that meeting in context, and the time frame, when was it? Edwards: Oh, I guess that was about a year and a half, two years ago? I guess we had at leas t two meetings where a large group of, ten or twelve growers and other representatives went up and did the circuit, with the Secretary of Agriculture as well. Anne Veneman, at the time, and all of her deputies. We told our story. She was from California originally was their Agricultural Commissioner, for the state[of California]. So [she] was reasonably familiar [with citrus]. But again, California is mostly a fresh fruit state, not a processed [orange juice state]. Some of the same arguments about open ing up the fresh fruit side [of the market] had to be made[from them] to understand that this is a
14 processed industry and were not really going to be exporting against Brazil. And explaining the monopoly position the Brazilian industry had to begin with. A lot of people didnt understand that. That resonates well that you are just going to turn a monopoly loose, with no competition if you put Florida out of business. Mansfield: Who would you say you had the most difficult time talking with? Ah thats no t a good question. But who do you feel like was most resistant to your argument ? who was most in favor of eliminating the tariff? Edwards: Probably, the one who said, You guys, this is going to happen, one way or the other. So youd better just suck i t up. Was the guy who was Secretary of Commerce [Don Evans]. Hes the one from Texas, its changed now. He is an ex oil guy from Texas and he just said, Trades gonna happen. Its not a matter of if, but when. But we made our case and he said, I under stand, but its probably not going to happen any way. Mansfield: Well did he just say its going to happen, or did he give you any explanation as to why? Edwards: I think he was more speaking in the general, not specifically just citrus, that, you know, trade is coming and you guys are going to get run over eventually, one way or the other. And I mean, we probably are, for lots of reasons, but were trying to han g on as long as we can. Mansfield: So you dont feel like that was Edwards: No he wasnt s aying, Were going to do it right now. Or that kind of thing, he was more making a general economic statement and I cant debate that he is not probably right. I mean its a matter of time. Mansfield: When you say its a matter of time tell me why you do you think it will eventually [be removed]
15 Edwards: Well, there are only two tariffs left, sugar and orange juice and they are grinding away on sugar right now. I think in the greater, over all picture of the economics of the United States, free trade w ill probably benefit the United States. Making these deals, over all, its probably in the best interest of the country as a whole. But it can certainly do great harm to individual states, or segments of the economy, like it can to citrus. Time and transi tional processes to try to [balance the losses to a given segment of the economy.] And you know everything isnt free trade. Just like I said, you got to get to kind of a fair trade and not everything starts from the same place. Like the difference that Brazils citrus industry is not a Third World industry. So its really not doesnt need protection. They have a lot of advantages that are derived from their own environmental and labor practices and regulatory and land costs that are a function of their society. In many cases our uh we probably as an industry, the citrus growers are not totally aligned with labor or the environmental lobbies. But as far as this tariff fight goes we probably are. Probably the democrats were more philosophically aligned against trade than the republicans are. In some cases they were more they had reasons to be a against trade agreements. Different reasons, but they were against them. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. [laughs] Mansfield: I was going to ask, who were some of the allies that you all were seeking? Who did you want to enlist in support? You mentioned labor and environmentalists. Edwards: Certainly, they were against trade in general, for other reasons because they dont want the competition in the labor force here, with cheap labor from other countries Environmentalists, because in many cases they are tearing up rain forests to plant these things, or the environmental impacts that will weve made some points by pointing out what would happen [to the environment of Florida] if all of the citrus groves were gone. Mansfield: So tell me about the efforts you all made to work with organized labor?
16 Edwards: I think our lobbyists spoke with theirs as well, to see if we had common interests, thin g s that we could work together on. We worked with other countr ies, other citrus producing countries that werent Brazilian but would also get stomped by a reduction in the [tariff]. Most of the Caribbean countries [that produce citrus] and Mexico are already bringing citrus [in to the United States] at reduced or on tariff. That came out of the Caribbean Initiative Programs, where duties were released back then. If Brazil comes in its going to kill Costa Rica. Its going to kill Mexico, Belize, whatever citrus industry theyve [got]. Lately theyve been working on de veloping with this subsidy that we originally gave them by giving them duty free access to the US. You induced and industry to start and now youre going to squish it? Those are not that competitive economies to begin with so Brazil will just smash them. So we tried to build a relationship there as well, with other countries that had similar interests. Mansfield: You said that the lobbying group approached labor organizations, do you have any Edwards: I dont know the specifics of what was done. We just identified others that, for one reason or another, were against the trade [agreement]. Certainly the other countries that produce citrus, that arent Brazil, have reasons to hope that uh the FTAA doesnt allow Brazil in. Mansfield: But did the lobbying g roup consult the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee before doing this? Edwards: Yes. We met every three of four weeks, either in person or by telephone conference calls. When things were really hot and heavy wed meet more often. I think we have a pretty good access. Our story is out and we got to keep it out now. Its not something you can quit. As long as you have the tariff, youre always fighting to keep it. You cant take your foot off the gas. Youre not going to be able to quit [spending] the money.
17 Ma nsfield: What is that, constant vigilance is what you need. But what about the Caribbean countries? Youve mentioned it, but do you remember when they met with them and how it went? Edwards: We met at the FTAA meeting in Miami and we met in the where was the meeting, in ah what country was that? It was in Mexico and whats the resort? Mansfield: Cancun? Edwards: Yes, I remember the Cancun meeting the FTAA had down there. We met representative from different grower groups from those countries when theyd come to Florida to coordinate our efforts and talk about mutual interests in that area. Mansfield: So whats happening now? Edwards: Well; now there is the CAFTA Agreement [Caribbean Area Free Trade Agreement] is being pushed and the White House is tryi ng to get that through. That doesnt really have a direct bearing on citrus, but it does have a direct bearing on sugar. Basically we got a lot of pressure from the White House, for the citrus industry to take sides on the CAFTA Agreement. And we did. We came out in favor of the CAFTA Agreement, which in some ways alienates those members of the citrus industry who are also in the sugar industry. I think they understood why it had to happen. But the citrus industry has a big problem with citrus canker and i s looking for compensation for all the groves that are lost. And politically, it looked like we werent going to get any [federal compensation] if we didnt take sides in the fight. Mansfield: So used what about hurricane relief? Did they use that? Edwar d: Hurricane relief had occurred before. The relief was probably helped a lot by the visibility and contacts that were built through the lobbying and the industry leaders being in Washington and telling there stories and under standing the Florida citrus
18 i ndustry. So when we had all of those hurricanes and they did such a huge amount of damage to the crop here. The Department of Agriculture and the White House were supportive and trying to help. That was sort of a bonus. We might not have been nearly as suc cessful in doing if we hadnt spent that money on lobbying and being in front of those people telling our story. That was sort of a bonus. Mansfield: That sounds like an unintended benefit. But with CAFTA, how did the work come down from Washington that you should pick a side? Was it the lobbying group? Edwards: I think that some of the Im not sure exactly who talked to who. Some of the people at Mutual [were contacted by the White House and told] Y oure going to have to declare whether youre with us or against us. You know ? Thats the way it comes down. When things get tight at the end, its hard ball. Mansfield: Did they spell out the advantages of being with [the Administration]? And the disadvantages of being against them? Edwards: [chuckles] I think everybody knew wha t the advantages and disadvantages w ere. I mean we were looking for, wed been lobbying for money for canker eradication and that was right in the budget. Theres two hundred million dollars worth of canker trees that have been destroyed. Congress hadnt appropriated any money for compensation for the growers that had the government destroy [their trees]. You know, if you didnt have the White House friendly to that idea, you wouldnt have any chance at all. It may still be a very difficult thing to happe n. But we probably werent going to get any canker money, certainly, if you didnt take sides on the CAFTA Agreement. Mansfield: The fact that the Presidents brother is also the governor of Florida [End Tape 1, Side A. Begin Tape 1, Side B.] Mansfield: how have you all used that to further your cause?
19 Edwards: Governor Bush has been very supportive of the citrus industry and he listens to a number of people in the industry about what the needs of it are. Obviously, its the second largest industry in hi s state and he doesnt want to see that go down either. So hes been very much an advocate for citrus to his brother. Thats helped. Mansfield: Well shoot! I had a question I was going to ask and it just flew right out of my mind. Give me a second and Il l think of it. It seems like, based on the background reading Ive done that this is really a trying time for the citrus grower, with the hurricanes, with canker, with threat of Brazilian imports and also the lawsuit against the Florida Department of Citr us. Edwards: Yes. Mansfield: What can you tell me about that? Edwards: I guess you know that our company is one of the companies that was involved in suing the Department of Citrus. It doesnt directly have anything to do with the trade issue. But it is probably one of the things that the industry is divided over. Where Id say on the trade issue, theres not much dissension about that. But [concerning the lawsuit] a group of large growers, ourselves included, and my self, probably the ringleader of that bunch. Anyway, [we] felt that the money that is spent by the Department of Citrus on the advertising is not the best use of that money, verses whether we kept it and spent it on something else. One of the big issues being that the Brazilians pay no p art of the tax for that advertising. Yet they benefit significantly from it and have a cost advantage over us, so that future growth will not go to Florida, but to Brazil. So were really spending our money to help them. And thats a hard thing to swallow. [chuckles]
20 Mansfield: Seems like its been happening all along, to tell you the truth. Ive had many people tell me about the concept of the free rider and how that just galls them even more. But, if you dont mind, tell me about the genesis of the id ea to dispute this tax and to bring about the lawsuit. Edwards: Well, I tried through the normal Id argued that point, as far as the economic benefits of that advertising to the Citrus Commission and others for a long time. We were not making progress on that front. The United Foods, Supreme Court decision basically, was the first time that, free spe ech and advertising, o r compelled [speech for ] advertising for a cooperative crop kind of thing, laid out a new area of law. It seemed that under that interpretation we would have the right to dispute that. That it is compelled speech. Theyre making us spend our money for a message that we dont agree with. So we sued and we won, at the Circuit Court level. And we won at the appeals level. And we were at the Florida Sup reme Court when the and this was going on in almost every commodity where certain groups had sued whatever government entity that compelled the check off for beef or pork or whatever to take that position. So, the beef case had made it to the Supreme Court before we did. And the ruling that the Supreme Court made, relative to government speech, that this is government speech and therefore you cant dispute it as free speech theory. It was a complete change, a 180 degree difference from where the court had been before. Thats going to take the wind out our sails in the ability to pursue that legal theory. So I guess were going to end up dead in the water on that. Mansfield: You said youve been pursuing this for sometime; when did it start? Edwards: I gu ess it was probably about three years ago, the original lawsuit was filed. Mansfield: But you said, before the lawsuit youd work through other means to
21 Edwards: Id made my case at Citrus Commission meetings and with individuals and whatever. Some peop le agreed I mean a lot more people agreed with it than just the ones in the lawsuit. You know, its controversial whether the money spent on the advertising is well spent or not. Do they do the best advertising they could? I am not really a supporter that generic advertising is really necessary. It really only occurs in certain commodity groups. Its a very small part of the world. Most things dont have commodity advertisements. I mean, water, which is kicking our butt, doesnt have any generic advertisi ng. [chuckles] Beer, soft drinks lots of the brands do well in growing the category that theyre in. I think the best use of your money is for your own company, rather than being compelled to give it to someone else to run an advertising program for you. Mansfield: Im trying to imagine some generic beer commercials, Beer, its whats for dinner. [Satirizing the generic beef commercial.] Or, A day without beer is like a day without sunshine. [Satirizing a generic commercial for orange juice.] Edwards: [l aughs] I mean only poor dumb farmers are organized and made to pay money for advertising by the government. Theres nobody else that has to do that. Mansfield: Well, for years people have been doing this and you suddenly call attention to it and want to c hange it. Im just curious about what when did you look up and see that this isnt right Edwards: Ive never thought that the generic advertising as that great of a thing. But to the extent that more and more of a lot of structural changes have occurred in the industry. In the 60s and 70s when there wasnt a Brazil. To the extent that we advertised if it had any positive effect, all the benefit went to the guys that were paying for it, the Florida growers. As the industry has changed, to where now Brazi l owns half of the Florida processing capacity. Is the behemoth cost advantage supplier in the rest of the world and imports into the United States and sells throughout the US, every time we advertise the guys that are paying for it are just building a cos t disadvantage for
22 themselves, verse our competitor. They can maintain a price that allows us to go out of business while they still make money. And any increase in demand accrues to them, until were dead. Then they have the whole thing. So slowly theyre going to get there with the tariff still being imposed, instead of where it is now. And some other structural things, there used to be thirty processors. Now there are seven. The grower [has fewer alternatives] as to who to sell to. The retail side of t he business, I mean ten large chains stores control 50% of the retail business. If you sell if youre advertising to the consumer and you induce him to pay a higher price, or get more volume, the first guy its going to pick off that benefit is the retaile r. The grower is the last one in the food chain and its becoming more and more difficult to pass that [increased profit] down. Even if there wasnt Brazil those structural differences have made it more difficult. Those more concentrated powerful economic entities are more power full than the little residual grower at the bottom; we take whats left over. So inducing a higher price isnt going to get to us. Mansfield: When you started talking about that to people in the citrus industry, tell me about the f olks who supported you and were in favor of it and the folks who were in opposition. Edwards: Well, there were a lot of people who supported the idea and agreed with the things that I said. There were a lot of them that didnt agree with it. They think t hat the advertising is the most important thing in the world and that wed all go to Hell in a hand basket if we quit. Its almost like religion. [laughs] Im not sure that its based on a knowledgeable thought out debate. You either believe it or you don t. Mansfield: Its more often a visceral response rather than an intellectual response. But when you say a lot of people were for it and a lot of people were opposed to it, those are kind of broad strokes. Were there any would you say big growers were a gainst it and the mid to small growers were for it, or, you know were there any commonalties among the two groups?
23 Edwards: I dont [think so]. I mean there were a lot big growers that are for the advertising tax. There were probably more big ones that we re against it. There were a lot of small growers that agreed with it. They felt that [the advertising tax] wasnt benefiting them. Its a pretty I dont know exactly how, I mean there is no poll on it. I would say a significant amount of the industry was a gainst it. It was a very divisive thing. People were for it or against it. It was difficult to change somebodys mind, one way or the other on it. Mansfield: What about the different organizations? What kind of stance did they take? Citrus Mutual is at th e top then there are smaller regional organizations, how did they fall out? Edwards: I think that Citrus Mutual never took a position on it, one way or the other. Some of the [smaller organizations] were for it or against it. I mean Jim Griffiths was cer tainly for the advertising. [ See Jim Griffiths interview with Bill Mans f i e l d 4 28 05] Ben Hill Griffin was for the advertising. [ See Ben Hill Gri ff in s interview with Bill Mans f i e l d 5 9 05 ] Certainly the people who were involved in the lawsuit were against it. Ive had a lot of people tell me, I hope you win, who were some of the larger ones that wanted to stay out of the lime light, one way or the other. But behind the scenes they were supportive of it. I think that, you know, it has made the Department of Citrus more sensitive to the issue and to the extent that they can they are trying to be accountable. Not that there are bad people, or people who arent trying to do the best they can. I just think the system doesnt allow effective use of the money. Mansfield: Do you feel that the efforts to protect the tariff Edwards: I dont think that theyve had any I dont thi nk its had any effect on the ability to protect the tariff at all. There may have been some perception from outside that there was divisiveness in the industry, that everybody wasnt on the same page. But I
24 think anytime there was ever any discussion of t ariff, I think everybody was n the same page. Mansfield: That does seem to have been a unifying thing. Edwards: Yeah, no one thin k s we ought to reduce the tariff. Theres not one person that I ever heard in the citrus industry to say that. Mansfield: C ould you talk to me about the position of the orange juice processors on the tariff? I understand they depend on Florida juice and Brazilian juice. So how do they fall out in this? Edwards: Well, they are kind of in the middle. Obviously half the processo rs, half the capacity is owned by Brazilians, so you can tell which way they would go. Sometimes Im not sure I know which way the big marketers [would go]. Generally the Tropicanas and the Minute Maids Minute Maid, for certain would be better off if th ere wasnt a tariff. Because theyre freely source, supplies from anywhere. [They] get the best price. Although I think that even Minute Maid and Tropicana would potentially face a monopolistic supplier, to them if they only had to deal with Brazil and bas ically there are two companies there that are the biggest suppliers there. If they were in control even those guys would have a hard tine manipulating them with all of the supply. Tropicana has a little more difficult analysis to make. I mean theyd like to have a second source of NFC, [Not From Concentrate] thats primary for their business. But its probably not practical to think that they could completely supply their US market from Brazil, if they had to. So Florida is the only practical source of NFC for them. They are more aligned to having to get their source from Florida O ther products can make [orange juice] from concentrate. But they do source all of their European juice from Brazil. Mansfield: On the efforts to protect the tariff, how did the processors respond? Did they contribute to it? Did they
25 Edwards: They did assist in the collection of the money for Mutual, even the Brazilian processors did. Most of them, at least in a public way, stayed out of taking a position on it. You know, the growers did the lobbying. [The Brazilian Processors] did not actively take a public position. There may have been some behind the scenes [activity] that you wouldnt know about one way or the other. But pretty much the growers carried t he water on that issue. I think the processors mostly stayed out of it. Mansfield: The one question Ive been asking everyone is, what is your vision of the future for the Florida Citrus industry? Edwards: [chuckles] Mansfield: Ive heard bleak tales and Ive heard rosy tales. Edwards: I would probably say that I dont have a very rosy outlook for the Florida citrus industry. Mansfield: What do you foresee? Edwards: I see I think that Florida citrus would have been here a long time. [It] would have been a shrinking industry, but [would have] been here a long time without the advent of canker. That, with the hurricanes, now has almost gotten completely out of control. I guess well kind of know in the next six months or so, if it really is [out of control]. That may s ignificantly accelerate the demise of the industry. But not with standing that, we had a tough situation anyway. I mean were at a huge cost disadvantage to Brazil and the only thing holding us is the tariff. How long can we keep that together? But there are a lot of other issues, the accelerating land prices in Florida have made almost every kind of agriculture difficult to stay in, verses the alternative what you could get for just selling the land. It doesnt make fin an c i al sense to keep it when you coul d do something else with it for development. So not being cost advantageous and having [development as] a better
26 alternative staring you in the face, all the time is going to make a lot of people exit the industry. The uncertainty of knowing that a disease can come and kill your investment and youd have to dig it up the next day. So people arent going to invest and re build right now, because they dont know [what canker will do to their crop]. Ive had a thousand acres, in the past two months that we ar e going to have to burn. And every week or so, or every day I get a call from one of my managers saying theyve had another find [of canker]. And thats a nineteen hundred foot circle. Thats two hundred and fifty acres. Mansfield: Well, there has been ta lk about different ways to treat canker. Do you think that cutting down [infected trees] and burning them is the best way to do that? Edwards: Based on the science that exists today, it is. After a point, if it gets too far, it probably cant be eradicate d by [burning]. Unfortunately you cant live with it either. It will probably, in just the matter of a few years, spread across the industry without efforts to eradicate it, to the point where it reduces the production of the oranges that youre already no t competitive on. And youll immediately lose the fresh fruit industry. We may not be able to export to Europe, starting this year. They wont accept imports from a country that has canker. So those things do not bode well for the future. Mansfield: If t he tariff is, indeed, removed what can the Florida citrus grower do to remain in business? Edwards: Not a lot. He can be in some small niche [markets], but we wont have twenty thousand acres growers. Youll have guys with a hundred acres road [side] stan d, or something. Mansfield: Okay. Ive been throwing questions at you for the hour. Is there anything you want to tell me about that I havent asked about?
27 Edwards: You seemed to have covered a pretty wide range, a lot more than the tariff. [laughs] Man sfield: Well sometimes this stuff just comes along. The lawsuit, everybody Ive talked to has commented on that, one way or the other. And the Department of Florida Citrus is a government agency that works with the citrus industry. So I think it would be useful to collect information on growers and processors and peoples perspective on what they do. Edwards: How would you a ss ess the people that youve talked to? Are they for or against [the lawsuit]? Mansfield: Id say its been pretty much down the mid dle. Edwards: Thats how I would say it. There is not anybody thats undecided. [laughs] Usually they are for or against, not maybe. [laughs] Mansfield: I would say that the maybe people have said that, at one time the promotional efforts of the Depa rtment of Florida Citrus made orange juice what it is. They made the market for Florida orange juice. Edwards: They did. Mansfield: And things have changed. Edwards: You have brands now. Thats what you didnt have whenever [they were starting]. Brands and NFC, which is the fastest growing segment, over half the total business, 95% of the NFC business is through brands. Mansfield: I always than k people, officially for taking the time to talk with me.
28 Edwards: [laughs] You re officially welcome. Ive e njoyed it. Mansfield: [laughs] Well, thank you off the record as well. I want to remind you that the information youve shared with me will be deposited at the Special Collections of the Universitys library and in order for scholars to have access to it we need to get you to sign a release form. Also Ive been photographing everybody Ive interviewed, so do you mind if I take your picture? Edwards: Sure, go ahead. Mansfield: Okay, let me shut this thing off. [End of interview.]