Florida Growers Lost Hundreds of Millions in Freeze
Crop losses from this month's extended freeze will cost Florida agriculture hundreds of millions of dollars and won’t be accurately discernible for several weeks, Florida agriculture officials told Senate lawmakers on Tuesday.
Briefing members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Liz Compton outlined a series of preliminary damage estimates for crop losses resulting from more than 10 days of freezing temperatures that extended as far south as Collier County.
“There are a lot of figures floating around but we want to make sure ours are accurate because these are ones that get sent to Washington,” Compton told the News Service on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Crist extended by seven days an emergency declaration that will allow growers to get their produce to market more quickly as they scurry to salvage what they can from the most damaging freeze in more than a decade.
"Growers are taking advantage of the improved weather to salvage as many fruit and vegetable crops as possible to mitigate the damage and their losses," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson, who plans to tour several farms and groves on Wednesday. "The ability to get the products where they need to go is critical to reducing the losses and ensuring these commodities get to the public."
As for damage, agriculture officials are beginning to release preliminary figures:
-Total crop damage in Lee, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties alone, is at $100 million, state officials said. Included in that figure are 30 percent of peppers and 25 percent of tomatoes.
-The Packer, a tomato industry publication, reported this week that 70 percent of that crop may have been lost statewide.
-Fern growers in Putnam County lost 60-70 percent of their crop. More than 60 percent of cabbage and greens were also damaged but many other vegetables had yet to be planted.
-Florida's tropical fish industry took a major hit with up to 75 percent losses totaling up to $20 million, Department of Agriculture officials said. Some small operators lost their entire stock.
-Citrus damage may be limited to under 10 percent, according to reports from growers around the state. Orange juice futures rose 1.2 percent to $1.33 a pound at the close of trading Tuesday.