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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: Marty McKenna Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Lake Wales, Florida Date: May 13, 2005 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Wm. Mansf ield [Tape 1, Side A.] Bill Mansfield: I always put a label on it by saying; This is Bill Mansfield from the University of South Floridas Globalization Research Center talking to Mr. Marty McKenna in his offices in Lake Wales, on May 13, 2005. Mr. McKe nna, we always get people to start out by having them state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. So, Let he go. Marty McKenna: Marty McKenna, born November 20, 1955 in Rockford, Illinois. Mansfield: How did you get fr om Illinois down to Florida? McKenna: Well, my mother was actually from Lake Wales and she married a serviceman and had a baby up there and moved back down here, right after that. Mansfield: So you grew up in Lake Wales? McKenna: Grew up in Lake Wales, yes. Mansfield: Okay. Tell me about your education, where did you go the school? McKenna: I went to Lake Wales High School, but I graduated from Santa Fe Catholic School and went to the University of Florida and graduated from there with a Bachelor of S cience degree in fruit crops. I graduated in 1980.
2 Mansfield: Okay. How would you describe your current occupation? McKenna: Citrus grower. Mansfield: How many acres do you have under cultivation? McKenna: Well, I personally own two hundred and fifty ac res and my brother and I manage right at five thousand acres. Mansfield: Wow. Thats a lot of oranges. McKenna: A lot of oranges. Mansfield: And how did you get stated working in citrus? McKenna: Since I was my mothers family was in citrus and I alway s wanted to come back a nd live in Polk County and the L ake Wales area. I actually live in Sebring, Highlands County, the county south [of here] which is very similar. But at that time, if you wanted to come back here, you needed to be in the citrus busines s. So thats how I decided to pick that niche, I guess. Mansfield: Okay. Everybody has been talking about free trade and citrus and it always comes back to tariff protecting Floridas citrus growers against imports from Brazil. When did you first become a ware of that? McKenna: I probably first became aware of production of citrus in Brazil at the University of Florida in the late 70s. I knew they were down there and knew they grew oranges. Probably, when I got out of school, in the early 80s, is when th e freezes started hitting, and that is the point where the Brazilian [citrus] industry really grew, tremendously, rapidly and actually over took Florida in worldwide production. Kind of
3 like, our loss was their gain, so to speak. We knew they were there an d we knew they were getting bigger as our acreages were getting lower. Mansfield: How has the arrival of the Brazilian citrus industry affected your practices, your farming? McKenna: Basically, its just given us a huge competitor. It has increased the s upply and [in] all agriculture, price is determined by supply and demand. Our demand has increased but not nearly as rapidly our supply. And the Brazilian supply has actually uh made it up until the hurricanes we just had a tremendous over supply of orang es in the world market, basically. So, they expanded way too fast, during the freeze years and Florida did too. We got busy and said, Hey; we want to get back in the citrus business. So we all went out and planted trees and when our trees matured, as Braz ils [trees] were maturing, we had over production. We didnt have any idea [as to] how we were going to get our hands around that production. We probably thought that there was going to be a freeze that would limit production in Florida. Brazil, we didnt know. I mean they dont have freezes. They do have problems. But it turned out to be three hurricanes that have changed the whole situation, tremendously. Mansfield: The hurricanes from last year? McKenna: Thats right. Mansfield: You said, they chang ed the situation tremendously, was that for the better or the worse? McKenna: We dont know. We dont know. It definitely has decreased the supply of oranges. The problem with that is that [the hurricanes] decreased it in Florida again, just like the fre ezes did.
4 Now, does that mean its just going to be another windfall for Brazil? While were busy spending money to get back on our feet are they going to be able to take advantage of our misfortune and get and even bigger share of the market? We dont kn ow at this point. Mansfield: When I talked to Mr. LaVigne this morning he talked about the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee, and I believe he mentioned that youre the chair [of that committee]? [ See Andy LaVigne s interview with Bill M a nsfield 5 13 05.] McKenna: No, Im not the chair, but Im on it. The chair [ of the committee] is Steve Sorrels. Mansfield: Okay. Ill see if I cant arrange to talk with him. McKenna: Oh yeah, he would be a good one to talk to. Mansfield: Well, tell me your involvement with the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee. How did I get started? McKenna: Now what he may have mentioned is [that] I am actually chair, or the president of Florida Citrus Mutual. Thats the organization that Andy [LaVigne] runs. And so oops excuse me! [Knocks recorder off the desk.] Mansfield: Thats all rig ht. McKenna: And I am on the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee. And both of those groups are voluntarily financially funded by citrus growers. The funds of Florida Citrus Mutual are used to pay the day to day bills and other operations. The funds of the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee are used strictly to [to maintain the current citrus rate of tariff, on imports] from anywhere, but [the imports] happen to be mainly from Brazil.
5 Mansfield: [Laughs] Well, I was going to say theyre about the only place thats importing [orange juice into Florida]. Tell me, how did you get on the committee? I mean how did they approach you about that? McKenna: Well, Im thinking how that kind of takes place. Basically [six years ago] I decided to run to be on the board t o represent my area of Florida Citrus Mutual. I was elected to that. And then this past year, twelve months from this June, I was elected president of Florida Citrus Mutual. One of the great fringe benefits of being president of Florida Citrus Mutual is yo u get put on the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee. So I evolved on getting in there and then also, with being president of Florida Citrus Mutual. Its my responsibility to appoint any new members to the CTOC [Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee], whether we need new members because some of them resign decide for some reason that they dont want to serve any more, or if the committee sees a reason to change members. Then it is my responsibility to appoint new ones. Ant [the committee is] made up of citrus g rowers, large and small corporate [growers] and family type [growers]. So its been tremendously effective and tremendously good for the industry, in getting those people together with one common goal. And they all kind of everybody agrees on the goal. And when you agree on the goal, even though you might have a few different ideas on how to get to the end, its pretty easy to get a map to get to the end. So it been pretty gratifying to watch it come together and work. And it has worked tremendously well Mansfield: When you say, Its been tremendously effective, could you tell me how its been effective? McKenna: Uh, yes. Basically, since trade agreements and tariffs and duties are extremely political items, the money that has been generated, which is a cent and a half per box, that each of the growers voluntarily donate, that money has been used in the political arena. All most I think, exclusively in Washington. So it has increased our presents there tremendously. Tremendously.
6 We happened to hav e during the hurricanes, the president decided to come down. And actually, he came and was in a grove right across the street over here. So he walked through the groves with my brother and me. So of the conversation that we had was he asked us how much we d lost, cause he could see the different fruit on the ground. And [He said] Well, what do we have he re boys? [We said] Well, the green fruits from Hurricane Jean. (Which happened, maybe five days before his arrival.) The yellow fruit is from France s and the brown [fruit] is from Charlie. It was just as distinct as it could be from the three different storms. And he said, How much you boys think you lost? And [my brother said] Well, at least 40%. And he said, Will the price go up? My brothe r said, Well, if they keep importing from Brazil, it wont go up. And he said, This tariff is important to you, isnt it? And we said, Yes sir, Mr. President, very important. And he said, Well thats why you need me as president. So I guess that was about as an effective thing as you could see. You know? And I feel that Adam Putnam was extremely influential in getting him here. But dont think if we had not had the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee and had not had the growers all coming together and financially supporting that cause, we probably wouldnt been able to get the P resident to land over here ad walk through an orange grove with us. Thats the best example of our effectiveness that I can give you. Mansfield: Thats got to be very reass uring to h ear the P resident say that, particularly right there McKenna: Yeah, right there looking at you. Mansfield: But the P resident is just part of it there is also congress. McKenna: But he signs all of the bills. And we have lobbied. We use that money to lobby and of course we fortunate, were so fortunate to have Adam Putnam up there. He it amazing. Youll be amazed, when you do interview him to see how young he is.
7 But its kind of like th at stockbroker commercial, when he talks, people listen. I mean its hard to comprehend when youre in Washington and he opens his mouth and everybody is paying attention. So we had him as a guiding light. But the key, in my opinion, is the administration. Yes, and we can get the congressmen and we do need to w ork them. But when they decide what battle to fight and, as you probably know, President Bush, his first term had what we call gosh TPA, Trade Promotion Authority, which means he can negotiate trade agreements with out congress. So you can get all of the co ngressmen saying, Yeah, yeah, yeah. Were going to help you! Were going to help you! And then all of a sudden you get an administration up there that cuts a deal, and youre left out here in the corner and [neither] the congressman, nor the senators had a n opportunity to help you or do what they wanted to do. So I think [with] trade [issues] that the administration is extremely key, extremely key. Mansfield: Is that what they call the fast track [trade authorization]? McKenna: Fast track, yes thats exac tly right, exactly right. Mansfield: But still, like I said, the P resident is crucial but hes just one piece of the puzzle. So Im curious, [ and] future historians would [also] be curious to know how youve have worked in Washington. Because when you s ay youve sent a lot if money to Washington, but that could mean a lot of different things. McKenna: Well, and we probably the best thing Most of that money wasnt sent up there, most of it was taken up there. Youre right [ the p hrase sen ding money to Wa shington] can mean a lot of things. Its kind of a distasteful thing to a guy that works for a living. And how much it costs to get the right the advice, if you would. And you know a lobbyist is somebody that kind of tells you where you need to go and who you need to see. And when you get there it always helps to donate to their re election. I mean thats just the facts of life I guess [laughter]. But, myself, as president of Mutual, since the hurricanes [of 2004], Ive probably made a minimum of five tr ips to Washington and probably spent twenty days up there.
8 And once you get access, to not only we had very good access to our state congressmen and our state senators. But once you get access as a matter of fact, on the 19 th were going up to see Henry Bo nilla, who is [a con g ressman] from Texas, who is the chairman of the Agricultural Appropriations [Committee]. So ah those guys [theyre all so busy, but theyre] people and once you get access to them, you sit down ant tell them your story, it resonates wi th them. It costs money to figure out how to get up there, and who to [effectively] tell your story to. I dont know if it should [cost money] but it does. [chuckles]. Mansfield: In an ideal world it shouldnt. McKenna: It shouldnt. You feel like you o ught to be able walk to Washington and get a directory and say, I need to see this guy, and walk [right] in. But when you go walking those halls, [you see] a constant stream of people. And I think theyre up there doing [the same thing] what were doing a sking somebody for something. So its thats probably what Ive gained the most a different perspective and probably respect for the whole system and how it works. On one hand you feel extremely proud of the American system [that] you can get involved an d see it work. But then on the other hand you think, You know, these Florida Growers donated two and a half million dollars to get this. Why did it take two and a half million dollars? Mansfield: That money, you said you donated it, was that to different re election campaigns? McKenna: No, its a penny and a half that they put into a [fund] and the CTOC decides how to spend it. Mansfield: Okay. McKenna: They decide how to spend it. Most of it [is spent for] hiring lobbyists. And you know, all a lobbyis t is, if you and I were up there serving in the House together, and
9 we kind of saw eye to eye on most issues and felt that you were a pretty good guy and I was a pretty good guy. And you decided not to run [for re election]. And you wanted to be a lobbyist And then youd say, Marty, you know, I got some things I want to run by you. These guys are pretty good and theyve got a good story to tell. Would you mind [talking to them.] [Id answer] Yeah, sure. But if they came up [on their own], they may g et past my receptionist or not. Itd be like you, if you drove in here with out an appointment, saying Can I interview you? Everybody would be ducking under their desks, you know. So a lobbyist is basically a door opener, and somebody who says The real guy who can help you with this is Allen Johnson. Okay, then we need to sit down and talk with Allen Johnson. Mansfield: W hos Allan Johnson? McKenna: Well, he happened to be Bushs trade rep. But thats just a name I pulled out [as an example]. So, it s a little bit distasteful that it cost that much money to get it done. But on the other hand, I guess thats part of the system. Mansfield: Well, the last time I checked, it was not an ideal world outside. McKenna: But on the other hand, when you get u p there, and you see the system work, and it can work. I mean, you have to work. You have to go up there and walk those halls and figure out who to see. And once you get [your] story out Cause you see our story is extremely different from any other comm odity. A free trader, by nature, he wants [free trade] because it will [lower the cost] of goods that are [coming into the country.] Thats their basic thing. They dont care or it s not a factor to change their minds that they can do it cheaper in anther location. If they can, they should. And the people that are doing it in the high cost area should do something else. Then when we get the cheaper product, whether its orange juice or not, the price is going to go down, so the rest of the country is going to enjoy cheaper orange juice and theyre going to be better off for it. And they are buying cheaper clothing and cheaper shoes.
10 The difference is, the difference is, there are only two producers [of orange juice] in the world. So if one of them is able to run one of the producers out of business in the biggest market. And you only have one producer left, Im pretty sure I know what human nature will do and thats they will charge as much as they can charge. So, that is not what free traders think. Free tr aders say, Free trade opens for bigger competition. And in most cases it does. So it is difficult to argue, Protect [the Florida Juice industry] when they keep saying, [free trade] will make it cheaper for everybody. If this country brings it in, so can this other country. So well open the whole market up there. But with orange juice, thats not the case. [With free trade ] there will be Brazil left. Nobody would want to shouldnt want to put their country in that shape, to have one supplier of anyth ing. So, I think our story is one that resonates and we had to invest in the political process to be able to get people to hear it. Mansfield: Thats what somebody said, that lobbying efforts were really an educational effort, to make people who make thes e decisions understand it from your perspective. You said youve been to Washington, about five times? McKenna: Yes. Mansfield: Tell me about those trips. I think thats something people would be interested in [learning about.] [Cell phone beeps and inter view is interr upted while Mr. McKenna takes a call.] Mansfield: I was asking you to tell me about trips to Washington, because it sounds like it was an education for you as much as you were educating the politicians. McKenna: Oh yeah, absolutely. It was an extreme ed ucation for me, an extreme education. Im certain it would be for any American that hadnt done that. Other than big
11 groups walking the halls and meeting guys and saying thanks whether its Senator Nelson just kind of breaking him in to the trade issues. Cause when we started on this the industry didnt know really what the effective argument was. We kept saying, Oh Brazil has cheap wages and low [production] costs, and all that. Also, the free traders were saying Yeah, thats why they ought to grow i t! [and we said] Oh, we need to figure out a different argument on this. So [in] our early trips up there it was evident to me that we need to change gears on how we presented out case. It took us a while to figure out how unique we were. We didnt re ally understand that we were different from the shoe people. Id read things in the newspapers and theyd talk about free trade and the textile industry in the Carolinas is really struggling and was not very successful. And it happened to them. [And we ] were trying to figure out how can we be different. We dont want to wind up like that. Im not sure exactly when the light [came on for] us, but at some point the CTOC, with Adam Putnam, and everybody working together on this thing. And that was probabl y one of the things that the lobbyist helped us with. We told them our story and they had heard all kinds of stories before, [people] saying, protect me, protect me. But I would imagine that they were the ones that really pulled out the differences. The y said, Okay, if we go up there and we say [Brazil does] it cheaper, they dont care. Thats what they hear all the time. Theyre callous to that. The free traders, the guys that put this [together] thats almost more reason for them to get excited about implementing it. So, when they heard out story, they said, Hey, you got a unique story. And this monopolistic story is what you need to be telling. That will make sense. So as we learned that and the lobbyist helped up get a little more expertise in h ow to get around those halls and who to see and everything, it evolved from stumbling around, stuttering around and walking around. We went into a meeting one time, twenty citrus growers and the staff of a representative I cant remember his name, Andy La Vigne could tell you who it was but it was the staff for the head of the budget committee, so all the money had to run through him. We were going to sit down and really talk to these guys and just tell then exactly the way it was and walk out of there and they were going to under stand it.
12 It was right before the president had gotten trade promotional authority, or fast tack. We were actually opposing that. We walked in there, in this nice Washington conference room, you know. [Therere] all these young la wyers walking around [saying] What can we do for you today? [We replied] Were just up here on the fast track issue and just visiting our represe ntatives and congressmen and senators. [They said] Well thats nice. Which position are you advocating fo r this vote? We said, Oh were opposed to it. She pretty much Ive been chastised pretty hard over the years, but never quite been chastised that hard by [ a woman] that pretty and not even a slang word came out. [laughs] But she explained to us that we didnt know. We needed to go back down to Florida and re think our position. That we had no clue what we were advocates for. All the rest of agriculture was in favor of this. This is something that the President needed. And if we were in the Presidents way we needed to go back and reconsider our position. [She concluded with] If thats all you got Im in a hurry and got to go. She got up and walked out of the room. So from that to where weve evolved now, having the President visit an orange grove, w eve learned how to get our message out pretty effectively and get it out in the right places. Andy and I and some other growers, I think, are going up to Congressman Bonilla, from Texas. When we first started down this road, without the CTOC, we would hav e never gotten to go up there and do that, you know? Mansfield: From what youve said, it sounds like the lobbyist helped you refine your argument, so that it would make sense to the people in Washington. McKenna: Exactly. Mansfield: Can you tell me who that was?
13 McKenna: Yes, mostly Bill Paxton, with Aiken and Gump. He was our primary contact with that firm. Im sure a lot of [other] people in the firm worked [on our issue] but Bill Paxton was the one who Mansfield: What was the name of the firm agai n? McKenna: Aiken [spells] A I K E N and Gump. Just like Bubba Gump. [laughs] Mansfield: The names not promising, but it sounds like they can deliver. McKenna: Yes. So and now weve got to learn and weve got to figure out to stay playing in that same level and financially be able to take care of it. See the hurricanes the growers were financing this based on a per box tax. We had somewhere around two hundred and twenty million boxes, before the storm. We dont know that for sure because the storm blew them Well, were going to wind picking one hundred and fifty, so thats seventy million boxes that we dont have for the growers to contribute to this cause, so income to finance this thing is going to be significantly less. But we think were in a stage where we can shift back. Mansfield: And shift back means? McKenna: How much it costs. Mansfield: You mean cut the lobbying costs? McKenna: Right. Were going to have to cut the expense. Mansfield: Well, will individual growers make contributions to t he McKenna: To the CTOC?
14 Mansfield: Yeah. McKenna: Only through the per box tax, so yes they do but they dont have to write a check. Mansfield: But if they chose to write a check, say McKenna: They could, yeah. Mansfield: This trip to Washington, where the lady lawyer chastised you when was that? McKenna: Probably five years ago. Mansfield: Five years ago, and your next trip up there, how was that different? McKenna: It changed progressively, in that um the significance of the President being i n an orange grove, it was unbelievably significant. Now it wasnt that significant as to whos grove it was, but now when I go to Washington, probably half the staff people of any senator or any representative [recognizes me]. Oh yeah, the President came to see you. Same thing with the USDA people. They know that he was in an orange grove, so they know that its got a fair amount of importance to him. You know, he could have gone a lot of places and there are a lot of places that would have liked to see him show up and state his support. Its extremely significant that he was down here in an orange grove and its recognized in Washington, whether they are politicians or bureaucrats. They recognize that he was down there and many of them recognize me. That isnt that significant, but there is the difference from almost being kicked out of an office to now, when you walk in [ and they think ] Oh yeah, Im shaking the hand that shook the Presidents hand. So its been a tremendous change.
15 Mansfield: Wh at about um the governor, who happens to be the presidents brother? How have you all worked with him? McKenna: Closely. Closely. Mansfield: Could you describe that c losely? McKenna: The governor has always been extremely open with the [citrus] indu stry, as far as being able to contact them and communicate with them. So, you know, we had a lot of things all the stars lined up to get the President down here. Number one, his brother is the governor. That was probably as big as anything. Number two, It was an election year and Florida was a swing state. Everybody knew that. It wasnt all our there were some things that we didnt have any control over that wound up being hugely in our favor. So the sheer mater Actually the governor was the one who came u p with the idea. We had been trying to get the President down here to make a statement about trade. Working hard, trying to do it. You know, thats a big job [laughs] Hes got a few other things going on [laughs]. So we had it close to getting set up a co uple of times. I dont know if you remember this but he was actually in Sarasota when 9/11 occurred. We were hoping that as he finished up in Sarasota we were going to get him to come by an orange grove in Central Florida, some where and make a statement c oncerning trade. Well, something came up and he couldnt quite do that. During the campaign we working, so we had been really working to try and put this together. Well he was coming into MacDill, to meet his brother. They were going to fly across the s tate to Palm Beach, where Mrs. Bush had an engagement the next day. The following night was the first debate. So the governor came up with [the idea]. Hey, well be flying right across the center of the state. This would be a great time to get him. So th ats how it all evolved. The governor, he has allowed us to ask him to use his influence. [laughs] So I would say, [weve worked with the governor] effectively and closely.
16 Mansfield: Hearing you tell that makes me realize that most folks dont understand the efforts that go into getting the Presidents ear. So that was the time that worked, but there were other attempts? McKenna: Yeah, but I dont know too much about them. I would hear (mostly from Andy LaVigne ) Hes going to make a bus trip down the center of the sta t e You know, and then were going to get him in a grove. So, on a day to day basis, I dont I k i n d of show up when all the works done [laughs]. Mansfield: [Laughs] That sounds like good plan. From my limited experience with politicians and what I have read and heard, youll go in and talk to a politician and he ll look at you and hell nod his head and hell smile and say, Thats important to me. Were going to do something about it. And thats as far as it gets. So how do you all ma ke sure that you get more than just empty rhetoric when you talk to these people. McKenna: I would say [you] follow up and make sure they remember what they said. And thats why the repeated trips [to Washington]. And I guess thats also why you have a lo bbyist. Because seems like they are always thinking about some reason to stop in that guys office. And then they can casually mention a lot of things. Thats just an outside observation you know. But [they are always saying] Oh yeah, well stop by the re tell him we saw his buddy. So I think thats what the lobbyist does, just keeps it in front of [the legislators] and letting them know that, Hey these guys in Florida are paying attention and they are going to know what you do and Im going to know what you do. Were not going to beat you over the head with it, but we expect you to do what you say youre going to do. Thats a huge part of [what the lobbyist does] is the follow up. Mansfield: So when you say the follow up, is that just seeing tha t he does what he says?
17 McKenna: Well, no. Just, we know that we dont have a vote coming up yet. But this tariff is so important to us. If there is any other information [they] need, or if there are any other guys on the committee that need [to be inform ed], whether they are from Florida or not. [If they] are really wavering on this thing. And the [lobbyist] will say, Maybe you should go talk to Bonilla. Its kind of a team effort. Once you get and, you know, it seems like to me [that the politicians] get so many requests. So many [people are asking for something] that if they hear [one request] and never hear of it again, they cant remember. And [his] staff doesnt [remember]. But if it is repeated and it is an argument that resonates with them. An d I would say a lot of [the legislators have taken to heart] what we're saying. Wow! We dont want to have anything coming from one place. Our argument has really been a fun argument to make. And now, when you go up [to Washington] they know it. Its li ke they are telling it to you. Were confident, because weve kept [the tariff issue] in front of them. Even though they get so many [people] asking [for something] and like you say, a lot of times people look at [politicians w ith skepticism]. [They realiz e the importance of the citrus industry] to this state. Its of huge importance to this state. Mansfield: The second biggest industry. McKenna: Exactly. I think thats really whats worked, is just keeping it in front of them [Now they know it [Also] of fering any help that we can. Quite frankly, most of the help is Could you come to a fund raiser? [It might not be] their personal [ fund raiser] but for somebody else. And if he can deliver some guys there, he can get a vote. If they are voting against yo u, you think AH! Thats dirty politics. If they are voting for you, you say, Shoot, Ill be glad to be up there. When is it? Well be there. Mansfield: So you go to a fund raiser and put in an appearance and that works? McKenna: Right.
18 Mansfield: W ho would you say some of your biggest supporters are in congress? Im certain of the Florida senators and representative, but what about outside of Florida? McKenna: Well, thats where were needed to learn more and do more. Bonillas from Texas, were g oing to go visit with him. And the last time I was there boy, I should remember these names but this was a shocker when they told me who we were go visit. We were going to go visit Marion Berry. I thought, Dadgum, what are we going to be doing up there? [laughs] This might be a wild trip. But it wasnt the mayor [of Washington]. Mansfield: It was someone else? McKenna: It was a congressman from Arkansas. He just happened to have the same name as the mayor of Washington. Mansfield: Talk about name r ecognition, that adds to his problems. McKenna: And he was very receptive. The way we really got a nice good welcome is that one of his constituents and one of his supporters has come down here and gotten a citrus visit. Weve gotten to know him and he sa ys, Oh shoot. You need to go by and see Marion Berry. Ill call him and tell him youre coming. So, were starting to work the outside delegations. Were probably a little bit more behind the curve, going up there and doing that, than we were when we wer e going up there in the beginning, when we were stumbling and fumbling. But were doing that. We are trying to establish [a presence with other legislators]. See, thats another disadvantage that Florida has, in the Washington political scene. Not necessa rily Florida, but Florida citrus, because citrus is really only grown in three state s You could stretch it and say four, with Arizona, but thats a very small amount. Theres a small amount in Texas also. Its small in California too. So what ever happe ns, our delegation has to be the one that really has to do the heavy lifting to get the ball rolling. Most other agricultural crops, like soy beans, they can
19 let the southeast boys, from Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, carry the ball this year and the next year, Oklahoma and Texas and Mississippi take it and the next year Ohio and Indiana take it. Tobacco is very similar, you know. So when we need [help in Congress] we have to go back to the same guys to gee the ball rolling. They can carry it, based o n the relationships that they developed over the years. Then they can ask us to go [speak to other congressmen. This guy is a good guy, but he needs to hear it from you. I would say, whatever the cause is; the real true American that is effective has a better chance of making the argument. Now, you need the lobbyist to get the door open and help you get [through]. But if you just send a lobbyists up there [the congressmen] see twelve or thirteen [lobbyists] a day. [To the lobbyist] its Okay, what do yo u got now? But when its the real guy that it really effects, they tend to try and think it through better. I believe that. Mansfield: As Ben Hill Griffin I II said, the lobbyist knows what hes read in books, but you know what youve lived your whole lif e and that makes a big difference. McKenna: There you go. Right! Mansfield: But when you went in to talk with Representative Berry, from [Arkansas] who has no experience with citrus, what did you tell him? McKenna: At this point we were telling him, num ber one, about how important the industry was to the state of Florida. He said I dont have any citrus in my [district]. We said, Yes sir, we understand that. But he said, You know, I voted for you on the hurricane disaster relief. We said, We knew that and appreciated it. We told him that At the time we went up there and got that money, in the back of my mind I was thinking, This is going to be a little windfall. This is going to be a pretty nice little check. Citrus guys never have gotten a go vernment check. But when we came back home and really realized how much damage and how much loss, how much cost, that with out [the government relief] it really would have been a disaster down here.
20 So he was interested in knowing how that [affected us]. Was it a good program? Was in implemented [affectivity]? Did it do what it was intended to do? Then he said, I am out of an agricultural background. I understand where you are coming from. Ill be there to support you. He said, But, you got to let me k now what I can do. You know, he doesnt wake up in the morning thinking, I wonder what my old buddies down in Florida want to do? So you got to communicate what you want them to do on what issue and everything. And most of that we get a lot of help fro m our delegation. Theyll say Hey, this things coming up and we need some help. [Cell phone interrupts inter view] Let me see who this is. Mansfield: Okay. Let me pause this. [Interview resumes] But [with] the Florida representative you can say, We ll if you dont support us were going to vote for someone else, come November. But like the [Arkansas] representative, what did you say to him? McKenna: We dont have a big hammer to hold over him, you know. All we can do is just plead our case, so to speak. And when he When they open the door to somebody from another state, they know that Congressman Putnam sent us over there. They know that at some point in time they are going to need to get a vote to help Arkansas, or Mississippi, whatever. There again, thats one of those things. Is it a good thing or a bad thing, trading votes? But on the other hand its part of the system and its a good way that it works. But we cant say were going to campaign against them, or were going to send [End Tap e 1, Side A. Begin Tape 1, Side B.] McKenna: money to their competitor, or anything like that. By the same token, if he needs to get some votes to bring something back home, that does help him. Or if hes got a real problem and he wants to send some of his constituents to some Florida guys and say, Hey make your argument over there. If you can convince them, they are good guys.
21 Theyll listen to you and if you convince them, theyll vote your way. So I think thats more of what it is, not really a We re going to beat you Mansfield: I think people would be interested in learning that, because most peoples understanding of how it works is very limited until theyve seen it. McKenna: And believe me, mine was extremely limited, up until very recently a nd it probably still is limited. But I do feel like the perspective from somebody thats not involved in politics and can really see it work, its been a great opportunity. Excuse me. [cell phone call interrupts interview.] Mansfield: What about you kno w you talked about the people that you worked with, do you have any perception of adversaries in Washington? People you feel like you especially need to work on or people who are McKenna: I would say that most of our adversaries are free trade purists. T he number one, the citrus scenario that we [presented] is extremely unique. But I think a lot of the It just seems like most of them are extremely highly educated. So what they learned was free trade is good. And youre going to hear a lot of arguments why free trade is not good, but those [arguments] are just protectionism; just projectionist of a small amount of people at the expense of the good of the whole. Thats very simplistic, but that thought process is why its difficult to get somebody to really listen to your argument. And I will say that if the administration desires to have trade agreements in place free trade, fair trade is a good thing. Its a difficult thing to do, with all the different types of economies, and customs [and everything], it s an extremely difficult thing to do. But in a perfect world, if we had no barriers, everybody had the same social desires and everybody paid the same amount of environmental precautionary costs, you could grow it where you could grow it. In fact (this is my opinion but I think its ) if that were the case, Florida is where all the oranges would be grown. I mean we grow more oranges per acre, cheaper than
22 Brazil. Brazil happens to harvest it [for a lot less than] we do. Extremely cheaper! Well, thats becau se harvesting is a labor intensive thing. We happen to pay our people above minimum wage and they have workers comp insurance and worker protection and everything else, which Brazil does not. But free traders dont care about that. Its like, If we woul d let them participate in the world economy, their standard of living is going to go up, therefore, were going to raise everybody, even the low guy. Well, factually, when you get into third world countries, the top guys get fat and the little guys stay little. [laughs] It seems that way to me, anyway. But thats an opinion, not a fact. Mansfield: But it does seem kind of ironic, because when I think about President Bush, my understanding is that he is in favor of free trade. McKenna: Very much so. Ma nsfield: And keeping the tariff in place for the Florida orange growers flies in the face of McKenna: Except that he has, for whatever reason, came out with a bigger tariff on steel. Now in his opinion, dialogue he likes to talk of himself as a fair trad er. Fair trade and free trade are two they get thrown around and [used interchangeably] and they [should n t ] really I use fair trade and free traders use fair trade [with] two totally different interpretations of what that means. Thats why weve got to make sure that fair traders, free traders, whoever they are, understand that there is a distinct difference in the orange business in the world than what shows up in any text book thats ever been written by any economist. Its the only thing [of its kind] that Im aware of. Thats our real argument. And once we can get people to [understand] that were not just another bunch of projectionists coming up here doing a dog and pony show, with smoke and mirrors for why they should be protected. Were pretty su ccessful.
23 But its a difficult sell to get from the projectionist mode, to Wow! This is unique. I dont want to create a monopoly. Free trade breaks down monopolies and increases competition. Free trade doesnt decrease competition. But you point out an instance, well here is an instance where you could actually decrease competition and [they go] W hoa, thats not our intent at all. Mansfield: Well, getting back to the Tariff Oversight Committee, Tell me again how the members were chosen. [Cell phone r ings and interrupts interview.] Mansfield: You were going to tell me about how the people on the [Citrus Tariff] Oversight Committee were chosen. McKenna: My predecessor, as the president of CTOC was Squire Smith. It was his job to select all of the comm ittee members. I mean looking at who he selected K nowing him h e selected them, number one, to try and get a geographical spread, with in the industry. You know, some east coast, some south Florida. We call this area the ridge, some ridge area [people]; big growers, medium growers, small growers. [He made] a successful attempt to get a broad slice of [orange growers] so that nobody, no part of the industry, felt like they left out. Mansfield: When you said that some members had been, I cant remember i f you said theyd either asked to leave or chose to leave. Could you tell me more about that? McKenna: All of this takes time, so some guys said, Hey Im going to be busy doing something else, so when my terms up dont reappoint me. I happened to want a different person on there so when somebodys term was up, I didnt reappoint them. I wasnt made at them or anything, I just thought that this guy would be a good fit and contribute a lot to the group. So I decided not to reappoint somebody and appointed a new person.
24 Mansfield: Okay. Let me ask you then, what qualities do you look for in serving on the committee? What, to you, makes a good fit? McKenna: This particular guy was a grower who [laughs] who happen to have similar views that I had. [laughs] I was the chairman, so I put him on there. Mansfield: When you say views similar to your own, would you care to share those? McKenna: Oh! Im a small grower, not really a corporate type mentality. So I look at things a little more in that perspective. Th at doesnt mean its good, or better than a large grower. A small grower tends to see the greater need for a CTOC because they dont have the finances to go [to Washington] by themselves and get anything. A large grower, sometimes thinks, I dont need the se guys. Ill go spend this money and represent myself and get just as good. So thats one of the perspectives that is just a little different. Were all a bunch of individuals in this thing. And thats another reason I said its been very gratifying to s ee us all come together. No matter what our perspectives are, we all came together on protecting the tariff. [Thats ] extremely important. Maybe we all had a different road, idea, on how to get there, but in the end we made them all converge to the same pl ace. Mansfield: You said there were some different idea about how to get to this goal, what were some of the different ideas? McKenna: Some of them were like, you alluded to them, Lets collect four times the amount of money. And lets go tell those po liticians, if they dont do what we want to do, were going to campaign against them and throw them out! That was way out [to one side]. And there were some that said, Guys you all dont need to do this. The governor is the Presidents brother. He aint going to let anything bad happen to Florida. We dont need to spend this money. As a matter of fact they might take it as a threat and it might backfire on us. So lets dont do anything. Lets sit back here and the Bushs will take care of us.
25 So, we gravitated towards the middle and its turned out to be a very successful thing. Mansfield: Okay. When you say the Bushs are going to take care of us did you mean hide in the bushes, or the Bush in Tallahassee and the Bush in Washington? McKenna: [Laughs] Tallahassee and Washington. Mansfield: Okay. I just wanted to make sure I got that straight. This is kind of changing channels here, but its something I have ask about and thats the law suit against the Department of Florida Citrus. Tell me y ou opinion or under standing of that. McKenna: Well, lets see. My understanding of that is probably more of an economic lawsuit rather than free speech lawsuit. I think thats a good way, in the courts to win the battle, but its probably more of, We do nt want to pay the taxes any more. So, I think in the long term of the industry, the department of Citrus has been extremely effective in increasing the market of orange juice. The business has evolved so dramatically, I think the Department you may ev en know this was it 1939? Is that when they [were founded]? Mansfield: I want to say it was a little bit before that, but it was back in the 30s. McKenna: 1936 or somewhere in there. The statute that allows its existence is 601 and Very little modificat ion of 601 has occurred since the 30s to today. Weve talked a little agriculture and the business from mules to what we have today. So it was extremely effective, with out a doubt. I dont think could make a factual argument that it was not effective, in the 30s all the way up to the 70s. Maybe an emotional argument, It was effective but we paid too much!
26 But it grew the market. Increase in demand is a wonderful thing, particularly when you only got one supplier. If you got one supplier and demand go es up, everybody is in good shape. So, when the 80s came along you probably didnt need to advertise. The demand can stay right here [holds up hand] because the supply was way down here [demonstrates with hand]. As we mentioned, the Brazilians jumped in the thing. Then all of a sudden we had Brazilians growing more oranges than Florida. Imports were high. Why grow the market when youre just benefiting the Brazilians. Prices got cheap. Nobodys happy when prices are cheap. Not only are they not happy, the y want to find somebody to blame. [laughs] So, everybody is pointing their finger and you and me. And I was pointing it back at you. Its a total economic thing now. I dont want [the Department of Citrus] to go away. I want to change some of 601. I want t o change how it done. But its left up to the courts now. Anymore, who knows what a judge is going to say? Mansfield: Some of the people Ive interviewed say Do away with it. Its giving the Brazilians a free ride. Other people Ive talked to have said The Brazilians get a free ride but it has done so much for us and it can continue to do a lot for us. McKenna: T o me the free ride is a shortsighted, very shortsighted. They didnt get a free ride up until recently. They had the equalization tax. And I dont know why, okay? We w erent going to charge the Brazilians the equalization tax any more. A terrible decision! Terrible decision! Number one, the free ride argument, nobody likes anybody to get a free ride. Even if you say, It gives then a free ride bu t Nobody likes it. We had it where every box that was imported paid the same tax that the Florida grower pays. We let that slip through our fingers. Mansfield: When did that happen? McKenna: Five years ago, and thats a little bit of a guess. But t he equalization tax was dropped three to five years ago. That really opened the door wide for the free rider
27 argument. My whole opinion of this is and unfortunately we dont get to debate it and we dont get to argue it, like we did with the CTOC, start wa y out here and finally wide up with some common ground. And that doesnt mean it wasnt rough and rock and bumpy to get there, but we got there. Because its in the court system I havent spent a lot of time or energy trying to figure it out. Because the courts going to do what the courts going to do. Now when that happens then Im hoping and Im trying to get the industry to listen and pay attention. [Im saying] Now look, the courts going to rule something. At this point we cant make a whole lot of p lans for what to do, but we need to be thinking about [what to do.] And hopefully everybody is saying, What ever the court rules we want to get together and figure out how we can have a functional effective Department of Citrus. Nobody wants to talk abo ut it much. Mansfield: Seems like its getting harder and harder to have folks talk about anything any more. McKenna: Right, right. Mansfield: Well, Ive been throwing questions at you for about the past hour, or so. Are there any questions you want to answer that I havent asked? McKenna: Oh boy. Mansfield: Or anything you want to comment on, that I havent asked about? McKenna: Im just trying to think through here. And whats the main topic now? Mansfield: W eve been looking at the effect of Free trade on Floridas citrus industry. And youve done a great job explaining how Floridas citrus industry has worked to educate legislators.
28 McKenna: And to keep or tariff, to keep our tariff. The net effect, if we loose the tariff, well loose this busin ess. There will no longer be a citrus industry. There will always be store yard things and your fruit stands and that type b ecause [citrus] is a novelty item along with a staple. There will be roadside stands, but as far as what we know today, it will b e gone. Theres just no argument about that. Mansfield: What do you see as the future of Florida citrus, assuming that the tariff stays in place? McKenna: I think if the tariff stays in place were there is, right now, there are three things that are th e determining factor if the citrus industry stays viable in the state of Florida. One, is the state of Florida has got to want us here. Two, the federal government has got to want us here. And three, unfortunately, the Brazilian processors have got to want us here. Brazilian processors own at least 50% of the capacity. If having oranges grown in this hemisphere is not an advantage to them, in their worldwide marketing scheme, well go away. So, that is something we dont know. We have no clue. Maybe its a temporary thing. If they can keep us choked down and keep the price down and well go away anyway, and thats what they want. Then the tariff is a moot point. Im not a real proponent of that. However, weve got to fit their business plan, because the Bra zilians bought 50% of the concentrate capacity here the processing capacity. And they own 70% of the worlds production. So theyre the driving force and its in very small very rich hands. So I think they almost have as big a decision [to make] on where t his business winds up in the next ten years as anybody. Mansfield: I was driving past the Citrosuco Plant out there and I saw they had the Brazilian flag flying. What do you think when you drive past that? McKenna: Well, weve gotten used to it, pretty m uch. That was actually owned by the Updike Family, who [also] owns all this property who manage for. We have business relationships with them. And they sold it to the Brazilians, because they realized that they couldnt compete in the world market, with sh ips and currency exchanges and everything.
29 [It was probably sold seven or eight years ago and] weve gotten over the emotion of seeing that Brazilian plant right there. Now when Adam Putnam, when the President came down, said You know Marty, theyre in th e shadow of a Brazilian owned plant right here. I said, Is that good or bad? He said, I dont know. [laughs]. I said I dont know either. But any way, its an extremely dynamic changing thing and well probably all tell you something different i n another three years. I think its going to change that fast. Mansfield: Thats why its important to do this [oral history project] now, while its still in flux. McKenna: Yeah, Im excited. Mansfield: And I appreciate you taking the time to talk wit h me this afternoon. I feel like Ive learned a lot and enjoyed it a great deal too. McKenna: Good. Ive enjoyed it. If you do a follow up, put me on your list. Mansfield: I always want to remind people, on tape, that the information youve shared with me this after noon, will be deposited in the Special Collections of the University of South Floridas library and be available to researchers. But in order for them to have access to it we need your permission. McKenna: Sure. Mansfield: And there is a r elease form that I have to ask you to sign. McKenna: No problem. Mansfield: Well, let me again say thanks and shut this thing [off]. [End of interview.]
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interviewed by William Mansfield.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (72 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Florida citrus oral history project
The interview focuses on McKenna's political influence in Washington and lobbying methods for the Citrus Tariff Oversight Committee (CTOC). McKenna discusses his meetings with various congressmen, and President Bush. He concludes with comments on the lawsuit against the Florida Deptment of Citrus and his vision for the future of the Florida citrus industry.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted May 13, 2005, in Lake Wales, Fla.
Citrus fruit industry
Florida Citrus Mutual.
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