Servicing Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee Counties 11741 Palm Beach Blvd., Ste. 202, Ft. Myers, FL 33905 Tel: 239-690-0281

About Us

2023 – 2024 Board of Directors

Charlotte County

Emery Smith, Ben Hill Griffin, Inc.

Collier County

Ronnie English, Cooperative Producers, Inc.

(2) OPEN

Glades County

David Wheeler, Wheeler Farms, Inc.

Lee County

(1) OPEN

Hendry County

Rob Atchley, A. Duda & Sons, Inc.

John Paul, John R Paul Jr Family LP

Wayne Simmons, LaBelle Fruit Co., LLC

Danny Sutton, Alico, Inc.

(1) OPEN

2023 – 2024 Officers


Wayne Simmons, LaBelle Fruit Co., LLC

Vice President

Danny Sutton, Alico, Inc.


Rob Atchley, A. Duda & Sons, Inc.




Bernadette Rashford

Bernadette Rashford, Director, Administrative & Membership Services


Citrus Pests & Diseases

  • Coordinating “regional” Asian Citrus Psyllid spraying efforts to combat HLB
  • Negotiated establishment of PCR Laboratory for “Greening” identification at SWFREC
  • Scheduled “local” grower workshops related to CANKER
  • Worked with “citrus” leaders on funding for CANKER eradication and compensation
  • Coordinated ALL “local” media relations related to CANKER

Taxation & Valuation

  • Worked to defeat the “stormwater utility tax” on citrus/agriculture in Charlotte, Collier and Lee Counties
  • Challenged the valuation process for ad valorem taxes on groves in Hendry County and WON
  • Monitor the valuation process for citrus groves/ ad valorem taxes in each of five counties
  • Negotiated reduced valuations of groves in Charlotte County and a process re-evaluation

Water Management Issues

  • Led the development of “GULF CITRUS” Best Management Practices (BMPs) and obtained thousands in “cost/share” funding for implementation
  • Negotiated “equitable” water use “restrictions” for low-volume citrus irrigation (SFWMD)
  • Negotiated “workable” rule revisions for AG consumptive water use permits (SFWMD)
  • Hosted SFWMD upper-management sessions regarding AG water use permit renewals
  • Participate in water supply planning efforts (protect AG) for Lower West Coast (SFWMD)
  • Coordinate “regional/local” supply allocations during water use restriction periods
  • Monitor FDEP/EPA water quality initiatives (TMDLs, etc) in regional water bodies
  • Plan and host several “regional” citrus/agricultural water management conferences
  • Maintain working relationships with Governing Board and senior staff of SFWMD

Land Use & Private Property Rights

  • Chaired Collier County Rural Lands Committee
  • Negotiated “workable” Lee County “Southern Bald Eagle” ordinance
  • Represent citrus/agri-property owners on Hendry County Rural Lands Committee
  • Represent citrus/agri-property owners on Charlotte County 2050 & East Land Plans
  • Represent citrus/agri-property owners on Lee County “Smart Growth” Committee
  • Negotiated “revisions” in U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Florida Panther Protection Plan
  • Plan and host several “regional” citrus/agricultural “enviro/species” related meetings

Governmental Relations

  • Coordinate “citrus/agricultural issues briefings” with State and Federal elected officials (Members of State Legislature and Congress)
  •  Maintain contact with county administrators
  •  Maintain contact with county commissioners
  •  Maintain membership on S W Florida Transportation Initiative (SWFTI)
  •  Arranged for 5 “Resolutions/Letter of support for maintaining tariff on imported juice

Labor Relations/Mechanical Harvesting

  • Plan and host SW Florida Agricultural Labor Compliance Seminars with U.S. Department of Labor and Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Administrators
  •   Co-Sponsor Annual Agricultural Labor Relations Conference
  •   Implement “Partnership Agreement” (education efforts) with U.S. Department of Labor
  •   Work with local Catholic Charities/other county leaders on farm worker housing issues
  •   Work with S W Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on labor relations issues
  •   Promote a focus on “mechanical harvesting” at SW Florida Research & Education Center
  •   Establish a UF/IFAS Mechanical Harvesting Advisory Committee (SWFREC/CREC)

Community Outreach & Industry Relations

  • Be “the voice” of the citrus growing industry of Southwest Florida
  •  Represent the citrus/agricultural community on Lee County’s Horizon Council
  •  Interface with Florida Gulf Coast University College of Business
  •  Interface with Florida Gulf Coast University Administration
  •  Sponsor the FGCU “Future of Agriculture in S W Florida” Study
  •  Interface with regional business/economic development organizations
  •  Serve as mass media contact for citrus/agricultural news reporting
  •  Provide sponsorships, contributions, and scholarships to county/regional charitable groups

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