Opinion: Sleepless In Citrus Country

The week of January 4–11 is going to be remembered around the Florida citrus industry as the freeze that wouldn’t go away. Honestly, I can’t recall anything like the number of cold days we had in a row, and neither can any growers I talk to who have a much deeper institutional knowledge of Florida citrus than I do.

The freeze caused considerable frozen fruit as well as twig and leaf damage. Mutual did hear of several growers cutting solid ice. We are still trying to determine whether there was significant long-term tree damage. As we all know, those things play out over time.

Scanning The Scene

The north (Lake County) and west side of the citrus belt along Pasco, East Hillsborough, Western Polk, Desoto, Hardee, and Hendry appeared to receive the brunt of cold temperatures on January 10–11. The Central region and Indian River region appeared to come through the week in OK shape but there could be isolated or low-lying areas where damage occurred. This was good news for our fresh grapefruit industry.

Temperatures on the Ridge over the weekend of the 10th and 11th were colder than expected and did significant damage in some groves. The outcome can often be a block-by-block situation. I stood in groves after the freeze where one side of the road was wrecked and the other side came out fine.

Breaking The Ice

While growers worked hard to keep their trees protected during the cold snap, Mutual did its part. Since our founding in 1948, our organization has been looked to by members as a source of accurate weather information. Throughout the freeze, our field staff was in constant communication with their grower contacts to determine what was happening. The staff briefed me and our communications department each morning to make sure everyone had good information when the media came calling. And boy, did they come calling. Over the course of the week, Mutual fielded more than 100 inquiries from The Weather Channel to CNN to the New York Times and to the Lake Wales News. Publications in Canada, France, and even Japan contacted us to get updates. The inquiries led to several hundred articles across the globe on Florida’s citrus crop. In fact, I did a Google search on “Florida Citrus Mutual” on January 12th and more than 600 stories popped up.

Real News

I could chalk the media crush up to a slow news day, but what the flood of calls really tell me is that Florida citrus is still relevant and the public cares about our crop and our product. Growers should be proud of that fact. People want to know if they will be able to buy Florida orange juice and fresh citrus. Can you imagine how we would feel if a freeze hit and nobody called?

Our communications strategy during the freeze extended to Florida’s elected officials and I want to acknowledge their efforts. Mutual was able to host U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, Gov. Charlie Crist, and U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio on grove tours so they could see the effects first hand. Thanks to Putnam, Commissioner Charles Bronson, and Gov. Crist for acting so quickly to get a disaster declaration request to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. The Florida citrus industry also appreciates Crist and Bronson’s efforts in easing trucking restrictions for four weeks in January so our harvesters could get salvaged fruit out of the grove and to the processing plant.

A Hardy Bunch

Let me tell you the strength and resiliency of the Florida citrus grower was once again on display in this time of crisis. Despite sleepless nights for more than a week and frayed nerves, growers still seemed upbeat in the days after the freeze. Once again, they are confident we can rebound from this weather event like we have so many times. I applaud you and your families.

As we move forward, I can assure you Mutual will disseminate the latest, most accurate information to our membership. We also will continue to talk to state and federal elected officials and regulators to ensure they are aware of the situation and making decisions to assist the Florida citrus grower.

Leave a Reply

Citrus Stories
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a Stop
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Smaller John Deere tractor for use in citrus screenhouse
Citrus Achievement Award
July 12, 2017
Encourage New Citrus Growth by Getting Back to Basics
2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines says producing crops under protective screen is a way to farm more and stress less. Read More
Beet-armyworms-on-a-tomato-plant
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibalism, New Study Shows
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Drone-aided photo of Ed Pines' CUPS
Varieties & Rootstocks
July 11, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers Going Inside to Think Outside the Box
Producing fruit under protective screen is developing into a viable option for sustaining the Sunshine State’s signature crop. Read More
Carl and Dustin Grooms of Fancy Farms
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the Reins
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
Dr. Martha Roberts
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Florida Reveals Its Latest Woman of the Year in Agriculture
2017 award recipient a true trailblazer and champion for the advancement of the state’s farming industry. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 10, 2017
Value of Bactericides Under Florida Citrus Sector’s Microscope
Preliminary results of the unique HLB management method indicate many factors left to consider. Read More
Mobile technology farming
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Practical Solutions Are Bringing Precision Agriculture Closer to Earth
Growing the budding ag-tech sector to maturity likely will require a deeper meeting of the minds between technologists and agriculturists. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a S…
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the …
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Florida Reveals Its Latest Woman of the …
2017 award recipient a true trailblazer and champion for the advancement of the state’s farming industry. Read More
Citrus
July 10, 2017
Practical Solutions Are Bringing Precisi…
Growing the budding ag-tech sector to maturity likely will require a deeper meeting of the minds between technologists and agriculturists. Read More
Business Planning
July 10, 2017
Farming for Online Sales Will Require Gr…
Modern agriculture might not be for everyone, but it’s here to stay. Embrace it. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Florida Struggling to Stay Afloat in Wak…
In one month’s time, parts of the Sunshine State have gone from water shortage warnings to a high-water emergencies. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Give Tech Companies the Expertise They L…
One problem with many agricultural technology start up companies is that no one on staff has a farming background. That's easy enough to fix. Volunteer your expertise. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Want Labor-Saving Harvest Equipment? Col…
Innovation and technology start with growers working with their peers and manufacturers. Read More