Florida Freeze Continues To Threaten Agriculture

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Governor Charlie Crist is declaring a state of emergency to help farmers save their crops from freezing temperatures. Crist issued an executive order lifting weight and height restrictions for trucks hauling produce.

The last time Florida experienced weather this bad, farmers suffered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crop damage.

Icicles hang from the metal dolphins outside the state capitol. The cold signals trouble for Florida farmers. The freezing temperatures spread deep into the South where much of the state’s fruits and vegetables are harvested.

Danny Raulerson is with the Florida Farm Bureau.

“The freezing temperature through an extended period of time begins to affect the plant, not just the fruit, but the buds the blooms the future fruit that come on.”

The last time Florida felt a freeze that stayed more than a week this far down the peninsula, was 1985. The freeze killed crops and decimated orange groves. Terry McElroy of the Department of Agriculture says the damage forced farmers to replant farther south.

“While there’s still a lot in Central Florida really there’s not north of I-4 because of all the damage of that 85 freeze and the millions of dollars that were lost.”

Tuesday the governor issued an executive order lifting weight and height restrictions for truckers. The move will allow farmers to harvest more of their produce.

The prolonged freeze could have an adverse impact on the price you pay for fruits and vegetables because of crop loss and costly effort from farmers undertake to save their crops. The livestock industry is also taking a hit.

Dan Buchanan, a Fieldsman with Florida Farm Bureau Federation says its going to be a nightmare for farmers.

“The profit margin for the poultry industry is really minuscule anyway but now that the farmers are having to burn propane fuel to heat the chicken houses that profit margin is dwindling fast.”

If things get really bad the federal government could pitch in with help for struggling farmers.

Counties must lose at least 30 percent of their crops before the federal government will lend a hand.

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