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October 2022, Volume 28, Number 4

Florida, Southeast

Florida’s citrus acreage continues to decline, falling to 375,000 acres and 56 million trees in 2022, down from 830,000 acres in 2000. About 60 percent of the state’s orange acreage are valencias, and the value of the 2021-22 citrus crop was $440 million. California has 265,000 acres of citrus, and does not have the huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening disease that has bedeviled Florida citrus since 2005.

Georgia. The federal government charged 28 defendants with forcing H-2A workers to work for them between 2015 and 2021, generating $200 million for themselves from 700 H-2A workers who had to pay for their jobs. The indictment in Operation Blooming Onion alleges that the H-2A workers were housed in substandard conditions and were not paid promised wages.

Some of those indicted in Blooming Onion were or are employed by the state workforce agency that checks employer job offers and housing. Brett Bussey left the Georgia Labor Department in 2018 to work as an agent who helps farmers to satisfy H-2A regulations. Farm worker monitor advocate Jorge Gomez had several relatives who were indicted; Gomez retired when questioned about his role in facilitating the trafficking of H-2A workers.

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