As California citrus growers continue to invest in needed research to aid the state's more than $2 billion citrus industry and battle threats such as the Asian citrus psyllid, citrus industry veteran Ken Keck will join the California Citrus Research Board as its new president on June 1.
Mr. Keck brings deep industry knowledge, including experience in fighting the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing in Florida, having served as general counsel and executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus from 2006-12. Prior to that, he served as the organization's director of government affairs and general counsel from 2002-06, and director of legislative and regulatory affairs with Florida Citrus Mutual from 1999-2002.
Having served in these roles, Mr. Keck has deep-rooted expertise representing citrus growers in a governmental, legal and regulatory framework.
Mr. Keck will replace Ted Batkin, who served as the organization's president since 1993 and who will retire from this role in September. Under Mr. Batkin's leadership, the organization increased its research investment to a current level of more than $5 million.
The primary focus of the program is detection of HLB disease and vector management of the Asian citrus psyllid.
"We thank Ted for his tremendous leadership and efforts on behalf of California citrus growers," said Earl Rutz, chairman of the CRB. "And while there are big shoes to fill, we believe Ken's track record, enthusiasm and alignment with the perspective of California growers will make him an excellent asset to the CRB. As an industry, we are facing some serious threats, most notably the continued spread of the Asian citrus psyllid and identification of HLB in our state. It's a complex and challenging time, but we believe Ken has the skills to take us forward."
Among Keck's accomplishments with the Florida Department of Citrus, he secured an average of $7 million annually of federal and state appropriations for programs; commissioned a National Academies study, resulting in the establishment of a dedicated $10 million annual disease research, development and commercialization foundation; and achieved a range of $3-5 return to growers for every marketing dollar expended. Mr. Keck has achieved these results not only because of his tireless work ethic, but also from his understanding of what citrus growers face.
"I am a third-generation grower in Florida, so I know the nature of the business. I know what it means to depend on the harvest each year. I know what it feels like to have your livelihood threatened, and I want to use this understanding and my experiences in Florida to benefit the California industry."
Mr. Keck holds a bachelor's degree in Spanish from Stetson University, and a juris doctorate degree in law from Widener University School of Law.
The Florida Citrus Department is a state agency charged with promoting Florida citrus products and is financed largely through a tax paid by growers on the annual citrus harvest.
The Citrus Research Board administers the Citrus Research Program, a grower-funded and directed program established in 1968 under the California Marketing Act as the mechanism enabling the state's citrus producers to sponsor and support needed research.