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interviewed by William Mansfield.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (70 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Florida citrus oral history project
The interview focuses on Griffiths' view of Florida's citrus industry within the international market. Griffiths discusses founding the Citrus Growers Association and his advocacy efforts for a controlled market and stable citrus prices. He comments on land use policies, urban sprawl, and Florida's water management policy.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted April 28, 2005, in Lakeland, Fla.
Citrus fruit industry
Florida Citrus Mutual.
Tariff on oranges.
x Law and legislation.
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: Dr. Jim Griffiths Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Lakeland, Florida Date: April 28, 2005 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Dr. J im Griffiths & Wm. Mansfield [Tape 1, Side A.] Bill Mansfield: I always put a label on the disc by saying that this is Bill Mansfield, from the [University of South Floridas] Globalization Research Center, talking to Dr. James Griffiths on April 28, 200 5. We here in his office in Lakeland, Florida. And Dr. Griffiths, we always get people to start off by having them state their name and telling when they were born and where they were born. So, let her go. Jim Griffiths: Im James T. Griffiths. I was born on November the 4 th 1914 in Altaloma Texas. Thats Galveston County. Mansfield: Okay. Tell me about your educational background. Where did you go to school? Griffiths: I graduated from Rice [University] in Houston in 1937. I went from there to Iowa State College, in Ames, Iowa and got a Ph.D. in entomology in 1941. (Can that be right? Yeah, thats right.) I went to Auburn, Alabama and taught at Auburn and decided I wanted to go into the Army and got a First Lieutenancy and went into the Sanita ry Corps and served in the Pacific. [I] c ame to Florida in 1946. Mansfield: That was going to be my next question. How did you get involved with citrus?
2 Griffiths: I took a job at the [University of Floridas] citrus experiment station. I didnt hardly know an orange from a grapefruit. I was working on the biological control of citrus insects, which I did for five years. Then left there to sell fertilizer. That evolved through becoming a production manager in one grove and becoming the general manager of a processing plant and packinghouse. [I] ended up paying to much money for fruit and realized I was going to get fired if I didnt quit. So I took a job with Florida Citrus Mutual and served as director of special projects with them for thirteen years an d retired in 81. [Then I] formed an organization called an organization called Citrus Growers Associates, INC. which is primarily my friends, but a f ew other people, besides, who p ay me enough to keep an office open and not loose too much money. [I] represent their interests, whether it be with the Citrus Commission, or Tallahassee, Washington or, I guess I could say Paris, if I could find a reason to go there. Mansfield: [laughs] When they asked me to start on this project I wanted to know if they c ould send me to Brazil. They laughed and said; I dont think so. Griffiths: [laughs] Mansfield: So you went to work for Florida Citrus Mutual about 1969? Griffiths: 1968, actually. Mansfield: When I talked with you on the phone last week, you said that Florida agriculture was a microcosm for national agriculture. Griffiths: I think it is. We are in kind of a Never Never Land right now, in terms of optimism and pessimism. Probably, in over the last fifty years the citrus growers, as a group, hav e been a very optimistic crowd. They were thinking about expansion, planting trees, growing the market. They dont feel that way today. Theyve become pessimistic about the future of
3 the industry itself, in terms of prices this is partly the result of the Brazilian expansion. Certainly its a reflection of low prices and basically over production in the world, which is Brazil and us together. But coupled with the low prices weve basically got a land boom going on in Florida. So they are getting offered mon ey for groves that they never were offered before. And there are many people just sitting there, waiting for an offer so they can get out of the business. Ive participated in a series of meetings over the last six months, part of which, were designed to l ook at where we are going. Theres no good consensus. My personal opinion would be that the industry is going to down size. Probably, within the last ten years weve hit our highpoint in terms of total production and I expect youll watch a steady decrease in grove acreage in the state. If prices get good enough youll see [the growers] planting again. But the planting is going to take place on flatwoods land, somewhere south of here. The Ridge (which was the place to grow citrus for many years) is probab ly going to disappear as a citrus producing area. What will that affect be? I dont know whether well down size from seven hundred thousand to four hundred thousand [acres], or whether well down size to two hundred thousand [acres]. But, were going to down size. Were certainly going to shift to where the bulk of the acreage is. Whether well change direction or not, is another matter. I think its fair to say that only in Brazil and [Florida] has there been any real capacity to produce processed oran ges profitably from hundreds of thousands of acres. I dont believe there is anywhere else in the world you can do that. Some people want to argue about China, but I cant see [that happening in] China. China is a rough country. They grow a lot of citrus fruit today, but they are heavy to satsumas and you can grow satsuma oranges in this world, only in places that are too cold to grow oranges. Used to grow them on the Gulf Cost of Florida, the gulf Coast of Texas, [they] dont any more, but you can. T hey can take cold, when planted on trifoliate rootstock. Mansfield: Planted on what kind of rootstock?
4 Griffiths: Trifoliate is a citrus variety but it is cold resistant rootstock. Thats what they do in China. Tropicana went over there with the idea theyd build a processing plant, if somebody would grow oranges for them. But they gave up and came home, without ever doing anything. Ive never been to China, but looking at the terrain, reading about it, it doesnt strike me as the kind of place wher e you can plant a lot of acreage of oranges. So if thats true The demand of orange juice in developed countries is substantial, if its offer ed to them. Mansfield: How does Floridas [agriculture compare] to national agriculture. Griffiths: We are hav ing small growers disappear and having large corporate ownership take their place. Thats going on everywhere. Were in financial difficulty. Thats generally true of agriculture in the United States. Probably, our problems to a substantial extent extend from the concept of globalization. And just the mere threat of tariffs being removed causes some of that difficulty. Certainly the competition from Brazil, who basically took ou r technology and knowledge to learn how to grow [orange] trees and learn how to process [oranges]. It all came out of Florida. I guess you can say thats globalization. So in one respect we created our own monster down there. The Brazilians themselves have come up here and probably control 40% of the processing plants today, in ter ms of volume. Florida growers own a small percentage of the total processing facilities today. At one time they owned it all. Those shifts over time affect us, but I think this is what youre seeing in agriculture everywhere. They re all in trouble. Mid western agriculture, subsidized heavily, is in trouble because our technologies have been used in other countries to produce wheat and soybeans and corn. And they can grow it as cheap or cheaper than we can. Where we used to be able to move large quantitie s of small grains on the world market [now] weve got competition today. You cant do that as well. Consequently theres problems. And thats going on through out agriculture. Go in the grocery store and look where the vegetables and fruits are coming fro m at least in the wintertime. Chile, Mexico.
5 NAFTA was just a blip on the screen that aggravated that situation for some crops particularly, in Florida, for tomatoes. Citrus wasnt particularly effected. The Mexicans dont care that much about shipping st uff here. But they do more than they did. Whenever I get into a general agricultural group and listen to people, I hear the same kind of complaints that I hear [in Florida]. Theyre not doing well. One of my growers (hes gone now) was an Iowa corn and ho g farmer from near Sioux City. He came down here for the winter. I used to ki d him, cause he was having just as much trouble making money on his farm in Iowa as he was making money on his gall danged grapefruit grove on the east coast [of Florida]. And it was a similar sort of a thing. I guess thats my rational. Its what I run into everywhere I go. Mansfield: You say its a similar sort of thing is it the fact that foreign Griffiths: Here, youve got different interests that have moved in. US Sugar i s a Florida corporation, but theyre a big grove owner, today. Theyve got a big processing plant. They want to get rid of the inspection service with in the plants. They are suing the Citrus Commission over paying taxes to advertise. You can say they are Florida agriculture, [but] hell theyre probably really land speculators. King Ranch is the biggest grower in the state of Florida. [They] operate under the name of Consolidated Citrus. There isnt any question in my mind [but] that they are land speculat ors. Theyre land speculators today in Texas. Theyre looking at what to do with all the damn land they own, in a way thats going to be profitable over the years. I talked to their president at a meeting in Harvard (that we attended). He talked about the fact that they were making more money at selling the hunting rights than they were growing cattle on their gall danged land. That a sad commentary on the world. Mansfield: Thats the same King Ranch thats Griffiths: Same king Ranch? Hell yes.
6 Mansfie ld: thats down toward Corpus Christi? Griffiths: South of Corpus Christi. They are the biggest citrus growers in the state of Florida. Mansfield: When you say that they are land speculators Griffiths: At the moment theyve cut a deal with a ranch thats owned by the family of the former judge. Alto Adams here in this state. ( Bud Adams is a nice guy. Hes interested in agriculture. I dont know how much land hes got over there in St. Lucie County, but probably in the neighborhood of ten thousa nd acres). Theyve taken his ranch, as one ten thousand acre entity. Theyve taken the Cloud Grove which King ranch owns today, and used to belong to Minute Maid. (Minute Maid planted it.) Which I expect is in that neighborhood, in terms of acreage. Theyve combined the two into what they call rural stewardship program, under Florida law. Under that law you can combine chunks of land together and have planned development. The concept is most of the land is put into general conservation areas, where its got to stay as raw land wetlands, whatever, or agricultural land. But youre going to let development take place in certain well defined areas, where the people will be clustered and have a complete community. So, they want have to get in their damne d car and drive somewhere. The King Ranch is going to put people on a chunk of the old Cloud Grove. They are going to buy development rights, under the system theyve set up, from the Adams Ranch Family. The Adams Ranch will stay in ranch land and native scrub, in perpetuity. The citrus grove that King Ranch owns will become a population center, in western St. Lucie County. That leaves me to conclude that they are land speculators. They came to Florida and bought land. They can hold it in citrus for five years fifty years, make some money. But as the opportunity offers sell it off. Mansfield: What was it you said, the sugar corporation that
7 Griffiths: The sugar corporation, Im not sure what the hell their game plan is. But their game plan is not to look after the small Florida grower. Its to look after themselves. If theyre wanting to end the days of the Citrus Commission by stopping generic advertising the future of the orange industry isnt what they are looking at. They are looking at I dont kn ow [facetiously] making panther habitat for Florida panthers. Mansfield: [laughs] Griffiths: But they own, twenty five, thirty thousand acres of groves today. Mansfield: You said that they were leaders in this lawsuit against the Florida Citrus Commiss ion? Griffiths: Yeah, they are. Mansfield: Is that just to get rid of the tax, or ultimately undo the commission? Griffiths: I think both. I think the immediate objective of the lawsuit is [to eliminate] the taxing authority to do generic advertising. I think there are enough studies that have been done, and common sense tells you that the Florida citrus industry wouldnt be what it is today, or what it was five to ten years ago, without that tax. Their arguments are not very logical. Whether they will win, legally I dont know. Its comme si comme ca [so what] If the courts follow the precedent, set in the first big suit, which was California tree fruits and California thats a federal order rather than a state order, but those people do essentially what the Florida Citrus Commissions does. They do regulation, they do research, they do advertising. They were found to be legal. To me that case, as Ive heard it, pretty well describes the Florida Department of Citrus. But the lower court did not find i t that way. Im not sure it was a well argued case. Were now before the Florida Supreme Court and simultaneously there is a marketing order advertising case [for beef] before the United States Supreme Court. My
8 guess is that the Florida Supreme Court woul d like to wait for the US Supreme Court to rule, before they do. Then theyll have the advice that comes from them. It was field in the case of the beef check off system. Florida has filed an amicus brief, pointing out the disparities in marketing order ca ses that have been held in recent years and asking for clarification, so that there is guidance. And making a pretty good case for the fact that this here is government speech as an additional argument and therefore is not subject to first amendment pleadi ngs. How that will work out remains to be seen. Mansfield: I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. These people would like to undo Griffiths: Southern Gardens, Baron Collier, Evans Properties are the three big ones. They been joined by the La tt Max c y interests out of Frost Proof, that own a bunch of land. Lack Maxy bought thousands and thousands of acres and was big in ranching and in citrus. His I expect its his grandchildren primarily by now saw this They probably always bitched about paying taxes of any kind. They joined the lawsuit and Richard Graves from the east coast. And Richard is just a kook. He followed his kooky tendencies when he did this. Im sure his father is spinning in his grave over the way his son is behaving. I knew his father very well and hes a different breed of cat entirely. But Richards crazy. Mansfield: But if they undo Griffiths: If they undo this, what will happen? I dont know. The Citrus Commissions authority to regulate and do research will remain. Th ere would be a substantial segment [of citrus growers] that would voluntarily pay generic advertising taxes. Theoretically, if the federal marketing order legislation had the exception for processed oranges, removed from it, we could qualify to do the same thing, under a federal marketing act. If we could get people to vote for it.
9 What will we do? I dont think anybody has any idea. The fact that land prices are high, probably reduces the likely hood of re establishing something, because people see and ou t. Mansfield: If the Department of Florida Citrus is undone, how will that effect the small to medium sized growers? Griffiths: It depends on the worlds supply of orange juice, and [chuckles] the prices processors want to pay. If the commission quits re gulating and we become an unregulated industry, in my opinion thats undesirable. Is it really? I dont know for sure. The market place is such that if orange juice is in short supply in the world, prices will go up. The Brazilians will benefit and so wil l we. And that would change a lot of peoples attitudes. Youll see that with grapefruit growers. Up to two years ago, the grapefruit growers where loosing money and going broke. [But] between the hurricanes taking the crop off and raising prices. I guess I picked half a crop of grapefruit and Ill get several times for it, what I would have gotten had there been no hurricane and I had the whole crop. But the hurricanes, in stripping foliage off of sick trees on the east coa s t trees sick with tr usteza disease there will be a big acreage over there that will never come out of this whole mess. It will die off. It will either be sold off as subdivision land or it will just sit there. So grapefruit is going to be in short supply I think in the immediate f uture. So its going to bring good prices. I had a guy tell me last night, The thing to plant is grapefruit. I said, Yeah, thats just a typical damned grower. The minute the price goes up, you want to go out and plant trees. Thats true everywhere y ou go. Name a crop and they do it. Mansfield: Yes, thats for sure. Griffiths: I remember having a talk with some Del Monte vice presidents one time. They were bragging about the cl ing peach marketing order and how wonderful it was,
10 and how good the pri ces were and how well it was regulating things. I got up there and got to talking about it with them (by that time theyd over produced peaches). And they said, The problem with the marketing order is that we didnt have any way to control planting. I sa id, No, you didnt have enough controls. You want more. Yeah, thats what they needed. The damn free enterprise bastards sat there talking about how wonderful the marketing order was until they didnt have the right regulations. They got the price up, so the damned farmers went out and planted more peaches. Mansfield: I was talking to Mr. Kahn and he said one of the problems was, you know, over production and under production. And some years thered be [a surplus and in other years a shortage] Griff iths: Thats agriculture. Mansfield: With orange juice in particular, what in the 80s there was a series of bad freezes and that opened the door for Brazilian oranges? Griffiths: Yep. Brazils first door was opened following the 62 freeze. [Thats when ] we began to use some Brazilian [oranges]. And there was a freeze in the late 60s and another one in the early 70s that reduced crops [here in Florida]. That further stimulated the Brazilians. And we had people from up here tell then how to plant trees and grow fruit. Mansfield: Well he said there was some effort among the growers to form I dont know what to call it a co op or stabilization program Griffiths: Yeah, he followed my line. Marvin is one of my good members. Id been promoting the idea for sometime, that we ought to find a way, with the Brazilians, to collect some money from them and from us, to expand demand in Europe,
11 so that the Brazilians didnt want to come up here. And you wouldnt have to expand it very much over there to get it i n that position. In the early 90s Dan Santangelo was running the Citrus Commission. He made a run at this with some Brazilians when he was down in Brazil. [But he] didnt get anywhere. Just this last December there was a group of Brazilian growers up he re. [They werent] associated with processing plants. They were here and I was kidding them. I said We got a deal with NASA, using their satellite technology; were going to be able to count the damn [orange] trees in Brazil and figure out how much gall d anged acreage you really got down there. I thought maybe theyd be unhappy [with that remark]. Hell! They were delighted! They said, Give us the results. We cant figure out how much acreage we got or how many trees [we have]. Wed like to see that done! When I talked with the NASA people [they said] Dont ever mention this to Brazilians. Wed be spying on them. And I thought, Hell, theyd liked to be spied on. Mansfield: [laughs] Griffiths: Anyway, that group was talked with and Marvin [Kahn] ha s been carrying on an E mail correspondence with a guy that heads up a large grower organization down there, [that was] basically formed (I think) by the government. They were interested. Will something ever [come of it]? I dont know. It may well. Mansfi eld: The impression I got from him was that the growers here couldnt agree on who would fund it and how the profits from it would be allocated to the Griffiths: No, there are some unknowns. I think the Citrus Commission could do it, theoretically. [Bu t] they have to want to. At the moment I dont think we have a particularly good Citrus Commission. They dont seem to think very much. (Not that they havent had predecessors that did the same thing.) But there is no real leadership in the industry today, somebody standing up and waving a flag and saying, Lets go! Weve
12 had that on occasion, in the past. [We] keep hoping someone will come up, but so far nobody has. Mansfield: So this effort to organize a Griffiths: I scared the lawyers at the USDA. I told them I wanted an orange juice OPEC; where Brazil and Florida control the world market on orange juice. If we can get together, [theres] no telling what we could do. Just like OPEC operates. Mansfield: Itd be OJPEC. Griffiths: Yeah, I talked with a guy named Ademarvel Garcia, who heads the you might say the processors association in Brazil. Hes favorably inclined. I know the Cutrale interests have been talked to directly. They are the biggest [orange juice] people in Brazil. The Florida Depart ment of Citrus, or the Citrus Commission has never taken a position on it, one way or the other. If their executive director thought it was a good idea and wanted to propose doing it, they would go along. But as long as he doesnt say, I want to do it. They probably wont do anything. They dont want to think past next Tuesday. The possibility exists. Is it likely to come to fruition in the next year or two? I wouldnt think so. However, if prices should happen to get better certainly they are better n ow. The odds are we dont have a real bumper crop this next year. The population is expanding we may have reasonably good prices for the next few years. If we do that will change peoples attitudes. Mansfield: Okay, but the impression that I got from him was that this was something that was proposed a while back and never went anywhere. Griffiths: Its been proposed over the last couple years, or more, and its never going anywhere. Primarily, because no organization, no major grower organization, the Fl orida Department of Citrus, the processors themselves, have not shown any real interest.
13 Mansfield: One of the things, in interviewing people, theyve talked about Florida Citrus Mutual, as the representative of the growers, the processors and the packers Griffiths: No. Its solely the representative of growers and their And unfortunately today their prime purpose is to find out ways to get more money out of Tallahassee and Washington. They never have an idea about something you can do good for the indu stry, other than associated with research. Mansfield: This is Florida Citrus Mutual? Griffiths: Florida Citrus Mutual. Florida Citrus Mutual, in the past has been associated with active programs within the citrus industry and done something. Its hard t o get them to take a position on anything today, pro or con, that is controversial. Their executive director [is] Andy LaVigne, a nice young man. He got his practical education working for Congressman Tom Lewis and he damned well learned how to sit on a f ence and never get into trouble because he never took a position. Politicians are good at that. Mansfield: Youre not the first person to tell me that. Griffiths: I would hope not. I would hope thats generally well recognized. Because of their ineffici encies and inadequacies at Mutual, other grower groups began forming, probably ten or fifteen years ago. And you got Gulf Coast Citrus Growers down South. You got Peace River Valley [Citrus Growers], in the Peace River. You got Highlands County [Citrus Gro wers association] in Highlands County. The Indian River Citrus League has always been here, its basically a packer association rather than a growers association (They claim they are a growers organization). They represent growers, to a certain extend, but theyve only represented the grapefruit interests on the east coast. Those organizations today are all struggling to stay alive. They are competing with Mutual for membership. [And] none of them stand up and offer any real leadership.
14 For example, I believe that we ought to have a common tariff policy. I wrote one. I went to Mutual and the Citrus Commission and said I want you to adopt a common policy that we can then get the other organizations to sign on to. Then get the California and Texas intere sts to agree with us and then hopefully get Mexico and Central American to agree with us, because they can come in here duty free. They have a greater state in maintaining the tariff than we do. Ive finally gotten both Mutual and the Commission to agree and to sign the damn thing. I left it up to Andy LaVigne to get the other organizations to get on it and he wouldnt doing a damn thing. So I went over there and said, Andy, if you dont want to get these guys to sign. Ill do it, if youll let me. [He s aid] Okay, fine. Ive now got all the grower organization names on the dotted line. Dont have the packers, dont have the processors. Ill get the packers next month. Will I get the processors? I dont know. But why should I have to be doing that? Why d idnt Mutual do it? Last summer Andy LaVigne paid my way to Texas and California to talk to the people out there, about research and about this line on tariffs. Well, all of them agreed they wanted to help us. This thing simply says, until the Brazilian economy has regulatory costs and labor costs that are comparable to those of a developed country, dont do anything with the tariff. Thats not a bad position. Hell, we want have to do anything with the tariff for generations! [laughs] But thats a good common place for all of us to be. Then were saying the same thing to the knuckleheads in Washington, that think removing the tariff and free trade solves all problems. Theyre crazy. It would only create one here, that would raise the price of orange juic e to the consumers in United States. Because the Brazilians would take over the market and wed go out of business. The price will go up. Mansfield: When you went to Texas and California, who did you talk to? Griffiths: I talked with the Sunkist people, from their president down to their vice presidential level. Talked with Joel Nelson at California Citrus Mutual and talked with the Western Growers [Association]. But I wasnt after them on tariffs, but specialty crops
15 in general. In Texas, [I talked with] Texas Citrus Mutual, because there is no other organization of any consequence out there. Mansfield: So thats Texas Citrus Mutual and California Citrus Mutual. Griffiths: There is no question, Ill get the signatures, of Joel Nelson or Ray Pruitt and s omebody from Sunkist on this thing, as soon as Ive got them signed up here. And I dont think it will take any thing but a letter to them [to get them to sign]. Then I want to dump it in Dan Gunters lap and say Now go to the State Department and do what ever you can do with your contacts, to see what you can do about getting Mexico first and then [taking care of the rest]. Particularly Costa Rica, and Honduras, theyve got more processing [plants] than any place else, down there. But that should include Jamaica and the other places in the Caribbean, that are all part of that Caribbean initiative. Roland Regan gave them free access to this country. The minute that Brazilians can flood us with stuff, without tariffs, those [Caribbean countries] are all in trouble, cause we take their product preferentially today. Mansfield: Other people have told me that the smaller Caribbean [citrus] producers are as concerned about the tariff as Griffiths: I want to say [that] there is concern. [And if theyre not] t hey should be. Im not sure that they are [concerned]. We dont ever hear from them, [so I dont where they stand.] Mansfield: What is your understanding as to why Florida Citrus Mutual has been so un responsive? Griffiths: Just what I told you, Andy La Vignes believes in running an organization, so you dont take positions, so nobody can criticize you. He likes to go to Washington and he likes to go to Tallahassee and as long as hes got the money to do that, hes happy. I think it is probably fair to s ay that he, and most of the other executive directors, their
16 prime reason for existence is to make a good living for themselves, not the welfare of their constituents; thats comes secondary. Mansfield: Well, youve talked about these localized grower org anizations, like Hillsborough County, the Gulf Coast Citrus, you said that what are they trying to do to affect policy change? Griffiths: Theyre not doing much! Because they are having trouble staying alive and their executives are having trouble getting their salaries paid. So theyre looking for members and trying to keep those they have. Therefore they [sponsor] turkey shoots and lotto tickets and Im not sure of what all the do to try and raise money. But they spend most of their time trying to raise money to stay alive, rather than coming to the Citrus Commission and telling them what [the Citrus Commission] ought to be doing. Now once in a while they take a position on something, but they are never out front with saying, Lets do it this way. They dont come up with any ideas. Mansfield: How would you explain the lack of leadership there? Griffiths: Nothing, except the lethargy of people. You know, there arent very many people who want to get out front and be criticized for suggesting doing some thing different. That takes special breed of cat. Catastrophes and adversities sometimes produce leaders. Once in a great while you have one that comes along just cause he thinks something ought to be improved. But they are few and far between. Fifty yea rs ago, the guy running Mutual was that kind of a person. He wanted to do something different. Mansfield: And who was that? Griffiths: Bob Ruthledge. Coincidentally, the man that represented Lykes Pasco, a fellow named Bill Edwards They were basic growers. Bill was a grower at heart, and though he ran Lykes Pasco, he had some vision about quality improvements and doing
17 some things that you dont [ordinarily see processor s do]. And he had some grower instincts in him; he owned groves. I know when I was a member of the processors association, as the director, back in the 60s, I always wondered why it was that I was running the cooperative processing plant. The biggest p rocessor in the state, at that time was called Donald Duck but its what we call Citrus World, or Floridas Natural today. Mansfield: I remember Donald Duck Orange Juice Griffiths: It was run by a guy named Marvin Walker. I always wondered why is it t hat I never agree with what Marvin wants to do, and Bill Edwards and I agree all the time. Here I was, agreeing with a canner for profits and couldnt get along with the gall danged co operative [canner]. But it was just the way Marvin looked at things. He didnt look at them like I did. He wasnt looking at them from the growers standpoint, he was looking at them from his personal, selfish standpoint. And Bill Edwards was looking at them as the manager of Lykes Pasco, but also as Bill Edwards, grower. He thought differently. Mansfield: Now Lykes Pasco is ? Griffiths: The Lykes Brothers interests, which were basically cattle, and then they got into the steam ship business (Im not sure how they got into the steamship business, but theyve been in the steamship business for 70 years to my knowledge and probably longer than that.) They settled around Brooksville, originally and were in the cattle business here. I suppose speculated in land. I dont know what they did, but they got rich. They had big cat tle ranches in Cuba. When Castro took over they lost all that. But here in Florida they started planting groves in the late 1940s, at Lake Placid and other places. They became very big growers and they became a major participant in the Pasco Packing Compa nys operation, at Dade City. It was the biggest processor at that time. Basically they took over.
18 And where Bill had been a part of original Pasco operation, he and Emmett Evans and [Bill s] brother Mark operated as Triple E groves. They took over ownership a nd management of Pasco. Then Likes joined in, but Bill remained as the chief operating officer. And Lykes today is a substantial grove owner. Theyve got one of the I guess hed be a grandson, on the Citrus Commission. His name is not Lykes but hes part o f the Lykes Family. His grandfather was a Lykes, I think. (Im not sure which one.) And they are still big cattle people. Mansfield: You said, He thought like a grower, rather than a processor. Griffiths: Yeah. Mansfield: How would you describe that ? How does a grower think? Griffiths: He just wants money for his groves. Hes doing that which helps him do better. Thats an interesting question. Probably my experience would lead me to say that to think like a grower, youre thinking more in line of what is good for the industry, rather than what is good for me? That may not be a fair definition [but] its probably what I mean. Mansfield: Youve talked about processors Griffiths: Youve got processors who look after nothing but their own damn interests. And thats true for Citrus World or Floridas Natural, even today, as far as Im concerned. They tend to look more at their well being than the well being of the growers that own the gall danged place. Mansfield: I can never figure out if there is a cooperative relationship between the growers and the processors or an adversarial relationship.
19 Griffiths: Theres a legal relationship, in terms of ownership. I own stock in the Haines City Citrus Growers Association. Hanies City Citrus Growers Ass ociation half a dozen other packing houses, most of which are no longer in business, but they are operating as entities still. And Ben Hill Griffins interests, as Ben Hill Griffin, Incorporated, Im not sure what entity. But Ben Hill has an ownership in C itrus World. So those packinghouses, through their growers: Ben Hill. Joe Davis, in Wachula put together a group of growers, that joined Citrus World as members. They are all growers. Joe Davis, Jr. is a member of the board at Citrus World. But that organi zation, historically, management has tended to sound far more like a processor, than like a grower. Their current management, the headman is Steve Caruso. Steves father was Austin Caruso. I guess Austins father was probably in the citrus business in Ora nge County. They were basically growers. They did own a processing plant and ran a pretty good operation. Their processing plant was bought out by Citrus World, and in the deal, Steve got to be chief executive officer. Steve is better about thinking like a grower than some of his predecessors have been. But hes not very good at it. Hes kind of adopted the Citrus World attitude, as far as Im concerned. Mansfield: And that would be? Griffiths: Thats kind of looking after them as processors, not as advo cates for grower interests. In other words, their interest is in how is it better for the [processing] plant. It isnt a matter of how is it good for my growers. Mansfield: I asked you if it was a cooperative relationship or and adversarial relationsh ip Griffiths: It is legally a cooperative, under the laws of the state of Florida. Its basically owner by growers, or grower interests, those being packing houses. Mansfield: When I said cooperative, I didnt mean a co op.
20 Griffiths: Oh, are they cooperative in other matters? They probably cooperate with our processors. Im not sure they cooperate to any great extent with growers. No. Mansfield: So how do growers relate to the processors? Griffiths: As adversaries [End Tape 1, Side A. Begin Tape 1, Side B.] Griffiths: today. Fifty years ago, thirty years ago, most all of the processors were owned by grower capital or were owned by entities that owned substantial citrus groves. That is not true to day. The exact opposite is true. Most of them have no interest in groves, period. That includes Tropicana. That includes Cutrale. It includes Citrasco. It includes Dryfuss. It includes Cargill. Now some of those have gotten some groves in the process of doing some things. Cutrale was going to plant fifteen thousand acres of groves, but he didnt like the endangered species regulations that were being put on him and he decided the hell with it, and got rid of the land. So, basically, today processors are owned by out of state capital, not by Florida grower capital. Thats a dramatic change over a twenty year period. Mansfield: So, with the free trade regulations, how would you categorize the processors position? Griffiths: I think thats a part of globalization. They probably wont sign my tariff resolution. Im going to ask them to, but their executive director says she doesnt think theyll agree. I dont know why in the hell they shouldnt. They cant operate here without fruit. But they might think their interests are better served some other way. I dont know. So far they havent shown any interest in wanting to [sign]. Ill take a crack at them, but Why? I dont know.
21 Pepsi Cola owns Tropicana. They got no damn interest except in making money. The hell with the Florida citrus grower. Hes [ only] a source of fruit for the moment. They might, sometime, recognize that he is a necessary source of fruit. But, certainly they dont today. I cant imagine Dryfuss having any concern over the citrus grower. Cargill likes to advertise how wonderful th ey are but, by in large, they are a processor. They are a handler of the product that the farmers produce. They get a long with farmers to the extent that they have to, to get that raw product. Mansfield: Do you have any understanding of what the processo rs are doing? Anything to from what youve told me it sounds like they are not doing anything to keep the tariff in place. Griffiths: Not particularly. They probably give general lip service to leave it alone, but after all, if you own processing plants i n Brazil and groves in Brazil, wouldnt you like to see the tariff removed up here? I think I would if I were in their shoes. Mansfield: So, I guess by their passive Griffiths: Basically they are operating for the good of their business, not for the goo d of anybody else. That, after all, is the basis for capitalism. Mansfield: Well, how would you change its hard for me to understand Griffiths: I dont know how Id change it. I guess thats a function of government. The agricultural policy of the Uni ted States government (I think this is a fair statement) was probably put in place by the Roosevelt Administration, in the 1930s. Agriculture was in deep doo doo when the Depression hit. The farmers were all going broke and being foreclosed on. Roosevel t did many things, it wasnt just farmers that were in trouble; industry was all in trouble. He did many things t help out the people in trouble and he created a lot of agricultural programs.
22 I would say a general agricultural policy. Between research fro m the USDA and between soil conservation payments and the establishment of the Soil Conservation Service and other things, he created farm policy that was different. Theyve talked about changing farm policy in the last year or two, [but] theyve just nibb led at the edges. Congress has not really comes to grips with how American agriculture best serves a role in the United States under the current globalization policies of the Federal Government. I dont know of anybody that really thinks about it. There m ay be somebody. Maybe Grassley does. Maybe somebody like that does, but I dont know. Ive never seen anything that they said that made me think so. They want to get good subsidies for farmers in the mid west and we get a lot of money to eradicate canker out of the Federal government. But thats not policy. Thats just sticking your fingers in the leaks in the dike. There is not a long term purpose in what they are trying to do. When will there be? Hell, I dont know. Florida certainly has no farm policy. Mansfield: I know. That strikes me as odd, because citrus is the second major industry in Florida. Griffiths: Yeah, but we just are. [pause] Maintaining land in agriculture, from a philosophical standpoint, is a highly desirable thing to do. Keep green space between the cities. The Europeans have figured out a way to do it. [I] can talk about England, but I cant be sure about the rest of them. I think they are doing about the same thing. But in England, first, the zoning laws dont let you do any th ing. Then the government does not tax the land. If you dont do anything with your land, then you have no taxes. If you put improvements on your lands barns, fences, you have some taxes. They call them rates. But if you just want to grow wheat, and dont p ut a fence around it there is no taxation from the government and there is a subsidy for growing wheat. In other words, they pay the farmer to quit grousing about the fact that he cant develop his land and pay him [ to grow wheat].
23 Now thats a farm poli cy. It may not be the one you like, but the net effect is that they dont have urban sprawl like we have. Their communities are fairly confined in areas and the countryside looks pretty good as you drive along. We dont do that here; except occasionally, somewhere. Montgomery County, Maryland has. Theyve created a system of zoning and development rights transfer that has kept land in agriculture in perpetuity. And apparently its working. Theyve been doing it for twenty years. How they ever got it starte d I cant imagine. Because they had to isolate every parcel of land in the county and put a development right concept on it and not have everybody fighting with their neighbors over who got the most. Then they said You can build here, if youve got enough development rights, but out here you cant do a damn thing except farm, or do something associated with farming. But they got the people to buy into it. Its what they are doing with the rural stewardship deal that I talked about, between King Ranch. And i ts what they are doing with two hundred thousand acres in Collier County right now. Good deal! But you cant come over here on the Ridge, when the land is owned in forty and hundred acres parcels; cause you cant get all of theme to agree to something. Mansfield: [clears throat] Each one is afraid the other one will get more. Griffiths: If there was the right kind of leadership you might be able to. Now they are trying to do something like this in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. (In fact th ere is a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, over there. Ill probably go.) Im not sure Florida law will allow them to what they think they want to do. It will be interesting to see if they can. If they can come up with an idea [to control sprawl] the n well have one. And thats being financed by the counties. They are pushing to have that done. They see urban sprawl as undesirable. Thats interesting. Mansfield: I heard a man on the radio say that urban sprawl was good because it [created jobs and] f ueled the economy.
24 Griffiths: Well, it does fuel the economy, there is no question about that. If fuels the economy while the government fails to build the infrastructure they need and so they are constantly behind on building roads, schools, parks, etc. and no prospects of ever catching up. They want to build more houses to pay for what they havent already paid for and then they havent got anything to pay for the new ones they got in. Its ridiculous. Mansfield : Getting away from urban sprawl and back to free trade and citrus; what about lab or immigration? Griffiths: Well, agriculture needs cheaper labor. It used to be supplied here by the poor white and black population of Florida, supplemented by that same group of people coming out of Georgia and Alabama. There were active programs to solicit farm labor from there. We had many things we were talking about. We (the growers did) started financing mechanical harvesting projects in the early 80s. We were running out of labor. However, we hadnt got t hat started before the Mexican boarder sprang a hell of a leak. The Mexicans arrived here in large numbers and theyve taken over the picking chores, almost exclusively. I suspect a high percentage of them are illegal. The government doesnt seem to be a d amn bit interested in stopping illegal immigration. Its not just the Florida citrus industry but people all over the country that want cheap Mexican labor. And in spite of the presidents protestations, hes not doing a damned thing about it. Mansfield: When you talk about free trade, labor is a Griffiths: Thats part of the game plan. He mouths platitudes about free trade and doesnt know what the hell hes talking about. Talks about how hes going to seal off the Mexican border and he doesnt do a d amn thing. Cause, as far as Im concerned, hes got constituents that want that cheap labor. Im afraid he is a man of very few principles.
25 Mansfield: It does seem, from what weve talked about Griffiths: You must never try to be logical. It will get y ou in trouble. Mansfield: [Laughs] You said earlier that Florida citrus growing is centralizing. There are more large [growers] and fewer smaller growers. Griffiths: Yep, thats real. Mansfield: What are smaller growers doing, or what could they do Gri ffiths: They are getting out of the business. I dont know that they can do anything [to protect their farms]. That maybe a part of the way the United States wants to operate. Mid western farms are getting larger, small farmers are disappearing. Thats tr ue all over the country. Mansfield: What advantages do you see to small farms? Griffiths: A rural life style is probably preferable to urban [living]. But apparently, as a country, we dont give a damn. Mansfield: What would be the advantages of larger farm s? Griffiths: I dont see any particular advantages. They have more political clout, because they have more money. They dont operate any more efficiently. I would suggest that in the acreages that I used to [care for], the smaller growers that we looked after had lower care taking costs than most of the large corporate people did. I was doing a better job than they were. The individual grower has some legal opportunities where he could peddle his own fruit, if he had the gumption to do it. But, basica lly, weve never done that. Theyve been commodity producers because of the nature of the industry. [pause] I dont know
26 what you do about that. I cant say that consolidation is bad, in itself. I think the net effect of what happens is bad. Now if they do what the Colliers and the Elecoes are doing down their in Collier County, then that becomes good. Mansfield: And what are they doing? Griffiths: They are putting this rural development thing together. Mansfield: The rural stewardship program? Gri ffiths: Yes. Mansfield: Okay. Griffiths: But theyre doing that for their own damned advantage. They see ways to make more money out of that. The very first enterprise, the first place they are going to build a town is a place called Ave Maria. Theres going to be a new Catholic university there. The development rights that allowed that to take place at this site is on land owned by Baron Collier. And the development rights transfer thats taken place is going from Baron Colliers land into that zone. B aron Collier is the only one coming out of there looking good. Right now the rest of them are sitting around hoping the hell they can do something like that later. And they probably will, because they will build more communities in there than just this one Mansfield: So you think it will end up Griffiths: I think theyll end up preserving a bunch of agricultural land down there in that two hundred thousand acres; or a bunch of swamp land that the alligators can hold sway in. I guess thats desirable. I m not certain, but probably that is.
27 Mansfield: Well, Ive been throwing questions at you for about the past hour, is there anything you want to say that I havent asked about. Griffiths: No, Ive said about everything I can think of to say. Mansfiel d: Can you think of any body else that would be useful for me to talk to for this project? Griffiths: Has the name Peter Sp y k e Peter Sp y k e is over on the east coast. He is heading a committee to try and do something about land preservation in those count ies. I can give you a telephone number, before you leave. He thinks about this kind of stuff. [pause] I suppose Norman Todd, down in LaBelle would be somebody you could talk to. He comes from a grower family out of Avon Park. Hes been in the growing end of the deal. Hes retired today, but hes still active in some of the politics down there. [ See Norman Todd s interview with Mansfield, 6 16 05 ] Im trying to think. I had a committee formed of Jerry Newland, Peter Sp y k e Oh! Mark Dubois is president of [the] Production Managers Association. Hes run ning a very large grove operation in Palm Beach County. Hes surrounded by people. Hes struggling. He runs an operation called C allery Judge Groves. Hes a person you might find of interest. Youve talked to Tim Hurner and Marvin Kahn, I guess from I dont know if Ed Smoak would talk to you. If Ed Smoak, at Lake Placid, would talk to you hed offer you a somewhat different perspective than you could get ordinarily. Ed is second generation citrus grower. His children are taking over. They way young Jo hn Smoak talked in Tallahassee, he spoke well about the future. Ed is a former citrus commissioner, [but] basically just a grower. I can get you telephone numbers, when you get me disconnected. Mansfield: Well, one thing I forgot to ask; I always ask pe ople to describe their present occupation and I didnt do that with you.
28 Griffiths: Im an agitator. Mansfield: [laughs] Griffiths: I still own a little grove, but Ive got enough to live on and Im just spending my time doing things that I think are g ood for the citrus industry; basically, from the growers standpoint. Mansfield: Youre head of Griffiths: I run something called Citrus Growers Associates, Incorporated, a non profit corporation that Im the managing director of. Frank Boius and Marvin Kahn are two of my directors. Mansfield: And what do you try to do with Citrus Growers Associates? Griffiths: I just do whatever the spirit moves me to do that I think is good for the grower. I go to the Citrus Commission meetings. Im interested, right now, in land preservation, so Im going to go to this meeting on the east coast tomorrow. Im on the Polk County Water Policy Committee. I spent yesterday morning with a new county commissioner, trying to educate him about water here in Polk County. I st arted out [in this committee] because of my interest in preserving water for agricultural use. But Polk County has the same problems with the water management district as a county that I have as a citrus grower. They dont understand what they are doing. T here is a need to work on them a little bit. You can say Im trying. Ive contacted the new person thats running the South Florida Water Management District and talked with her. Shes interested. Ive talked with Kirby Greene that runs St. Johns Water Management District. I know David More, quite well at [inaudible] the high pressure point in the Florida Aquifer is up here at I 4 and 27. Those three water management districts ought to make sure that stays there and doesnt get drawn down. If it gets dr awn down it adversely affects water all over the peninsula.
29 Are they doing anything? Hell no! They are sitting back, twiddling their thumbs. They give lip service to the fact that they ought to do something. Will they ever do anything? I dont know. But t hats part of what I want Polk County pushing for. Thats good for the citrus grower. So I can justify what Im doing, hunting water from the citrus growers standpoint. But Im putting my efforts into Polk County and that gets me from there to land preser vation. Theyre not doing a gall danged thing about that. [But they] ought to be, because theyve got as mess here. You cant go anywhere without being in a traffic jam. Mansfield: Thats for sure. Griffiths: Every morning. I get tired of it and its onl y getting worse. Mansfield: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me Griffiths: Well, I dont know what good it does you, but you can do what you please with it. Mansfield: Well, Ive certainly enjoyed it. And I want to remind you that the information that youve shared with me will be deposited in the Special Collections Griffiths: Okay. Send it to me when you get it put together and well see what we thing about it. Mansfield: Okay. And Ive got to ask you to sign a release fo rm. Griffiths: Thats fine. Mansfield: And Ive been photographing everybody that Ive interviewed. Do you mine if I take your picture?
30 Griffiths: I dont know what youd want one for, but be my guest. Mansfield: Okay. Let me shut this thing off. [En d of interview.]