1. Letters to the Editor

Thursday's letters: Citrus growers not the bad guys

Published Oct. 23, 2013

Swiftmud treads lightly as growers exceed water limits | Oct. 18

Citrus growers not the bad guys

The Florida citrus industry, one of the state's true economic engines, is battling an insidious bacterial disease known as HLB, or citrus greening. The disease has the potential to wipe out our $9 billion industry, its 76,000 jobs and a way of life across Florida's rural interior.

There are a lot of unknowns about growing citrus in the era of HLB, including when and how much irrigation is needed to restore growth and health to the blotchy, wrinkled leaves that are a hallmark of HLB. Studies are underway to figure it out.

So it was disappointing that an article and subsequent editorial in the Times regarding a handful of growers overpumping water painted them as the bad guys. In an era of uncertainty, unintended errors will be made, especially when a grower is trying to save his livelihood. The citrus industry is in crisis, and to compare our situation to homeowners having to install low-flow shower heads is small-minded and inaccurate.

In fact, despite disease challenges, citrus growers in the Southwest Florida Water Management District have reduced their daily water pumping by more than 37 percent over the past decade, according to the district's annual water use reports.

This significant decrease has been achieved through a number initiatives including robust communication between the district and growers, advances in technology such as micro-jet irrigation, and innovative programs that incentivize farmers to use less water.

Growers need quality water to maximize tree growth and yields. They understand the importance of a healthy environment, conservation and efficient production techniques. Unfortunately, this context was not reported in the Times. Jumping to conclusions without giving context does a disservice to your readers.

Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president/CEO, Florida Citrus Mutual, Lakeland

Obamacare website may take weeks to fix Oct. 21

Be patient; site is working

In less time than it takes to drive from here to Orlando, with far less peril but merely the equivalent frustration, I was able to assist two middle-aged women without health insurance in obtaining reasonably priced coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Their multiple, treatable pre-existing conditions worsened because they lacked access to continuing health care since the persistent Great Recession. I am happy that they will again have access to continuing care, preventive assessments, and lives freer from physical pain and unwarranted anxiety because of Obamacare.

While Medicare for all would be fairer, until then anyone without medical insurance and with an income of above $11,900 a year should enroll online, by mail or by phone. Be patient. Though if you are truly poor, childless and live in Florida you are on your own, sadly.

Woods Rogers III, Tampa

Hack attack?

I wonder how many hackers are out there hammering on the Obamacare website? This is exactly the kind of thing opponents of the administration would do. It would not surprise me if there are hundreds or even thousands of hackers trying to take down this site. The FBI should look into it.

F.M. Younglove, Brandon

$13B penalty for JPMorgan | Oct. 20

Tougher response needed

JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $13 billion in penalties to the Justice Department. Its sale of poor-quality mortgage-backed securities cost U.S. taxpayers $22.5 billion, which helped drive us into the Great Recession. Considering this, the fine is a slap on the wrist.

JPMorgan Chase has total assets of $2.5 trillion, annual revenues of $100 billion and net earnings of $21 billion a year, yet with its outright fraudulent practices no one went to jail and it's business as usual.

In the past, the United States used a "corporate death penalty." In the early 1800s, laws were passed in several states to make it easier for legislators to revoke corporate charters if businesses were operating against the public interest. This routinely happened.

It is time to revoke corporate charters in the United States of companies that act against our interests.

Scott McKown, Palm Harbor

Benefactor | Oct. 19

Young's marine science role

Inside USF's College of Marine Science and the U.S. Geological Survey are stained glass windows bearing a tribute to Congressman C.W. Bill Young: "A leader who shared our vision of a multidisciplinary research team creating new technologies for understanding the world's oceans."

The windows and bronze busts are part of St. Petersburg's extensive and internationally acclaimed marine research complex named for him in 2002. Young's research complex is a testimonial to his long-term advocacy that propelled marine sciences into international prominence. During collaborations spanning more than two decades, Young never asked about anyone's political affiliation but focused on the ideas they advanced. The funding he made possible enabled USF's scientists and engineers to develop powerful new sensing systems such as the underwater mass spectrometer that was a key to understanding where, and how rapidly, the oil and gas from the BP oil spill were moving in deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Young's belief in the importance of supporting talented scientists and engineers led the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership to create an endowed fellowship that recognized accomplished graduate students in USF's College of Marine Science.

In 2006, when SRI decided to build a research facility and to expand in St. Petersburg, its decision was triggered by the innovative group of scientists and engineers operating in USF's College of Marine Science.

Young almost single-handedly fueled a revolution in Tampa Bay that is still bearing fruit.

Peter R. Betzer, president, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership; former dean, College of Marine Science at USF St. Petersburg