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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

USDA Breaks Ground for New Federal Lab in Fort Pierce, Fla. / June 21, 1997 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

History and Accomplishments of the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory

USDA Breaks Ground for New Federal Lab in Fort Pierce, Fla.

By Doris Stanley
June 21,1997

FORT PIERCE, Fla., June 21--Richard Rominger, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, will headline ceremonies here today for construction of a new, long-awaited federal laboratory for horticultural research. When completed, USDA's Agricultural Research Service will finish relocating its Horticultural Research Laboratory from Orlando to Fort Pierce, in St. Lucie County.

"USDA and Florida's citrus and vegetable industries have planned for this day for 10 years," Rominger said. "We look forward to a productive, interactive relationship between USDA scientists and all members of the agriculture community, including the University of Florida, industry, growers, and local citizens. The new lab here in Fort Pierce will benefit us all."

Rominger will lead off the groundbreaking ceremonies for the $28 million laboratory at 10 a.m. at the Indian River Research and Education Center at 2199 South Rock Rd [directions/map]. He said urban sprawl is forcing the USDA lab to move from its present site in Orlando, where it has been located since 1952. "We felt the need to expand and to get closer to growers and industry," Rominger explained.

The lab is expected to be completed by 1999 and the farm site is scheduled for completion by 1998. Richard T. Mayer, director of the current laboratory in Orlando, said USDA is leasing a 173-acre farm for field research on citrus and 40 acres for research on vegetable and ornamental crops.

The new lab will be built on an 18-acre site adjacent to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The 85,000-square-foot building is designed to house 26 scientists and 100 support personnel.

"The location will allow for even more collaboration between ARS scientists and the University of Florida," Rominger said. "Also, local companies have expressed interest in evaluating new technology developed by scientists at this lab that can minimize postharvest losses. This can expand our export trade."

In addition to improving production systems for citrus, vegetable, nursery and ornamental crops, the ARS lab is charged with conducting research on land management systems to protect the environment and on biological controls of insect and plant pests. The ARS scientists also focus on developing more efficient marketing systems for all horticultural crops headed for domestic and export markets.

Scientific contacts: Richard T. Mayer, Laboratory Director, U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 2120 Camden Road, Orlando, FL 32803. Telephone, 407-897-7300; fax, 407-897-7309; e-mail, or Calvin Arnold, University of Florida, Indian River Research and Education Center, Ft. Pierce, FL 34945-3138. Telephone, 561-468-3922; fax 561-468-5668; e-mail

Last Modified: 3/21/2014
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