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
Florida Sugar Cane field
Citrus
September 26, 2016
Florida Sugarcane Industry Strengthening From Within
Pot sweetens with promotions for three executive staffers of the state’s Growers Cooperative. Read More
Closeup on a citrus blossom in Florida
Citrus Achievement Award
September 26, 2016
Hope Growing Around Bactericides As A Citrus Greening Solution
Citrus Achievement Award winner Marty McKenna is optimistic about new approach to staving off HLB. Read More
water droplet_generic
Citrus
September 22, 2016
Senate Committee Report Says WOTUS Reforms Needed
A report issued from the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee says federal agencies overreach their authority to regulate Read More
Spring Valley Farms in Umatilla, FL, from a drone
Citrus
September 22, 2016
Citrus Tax Incentive A Big Step Closer To Fruition
U.S. House vote ends in landslide of support for emergency legislation, which allows growers to immediately expense the cost of planting new trees. Read More
The new Greefa unit at Stemilt is nearly the length of a football field. “It just keeps going and going,” says General Manager Jay Fulbright. (Photo courtesy of Stemilt)
Citrus
September 20, 2016
Preventative Control Rules Now In Effect For Large Businesses
Facilities employing 500 or more people must meet new standards. Read More
If Palmer amaranth is present in your field, do not remove the weed plants. Instead, destroy the weeds by burying or burning near the infested field.
Photo credit: Dwight Lingenfelter, Penn State University
Citrus
September 20, 2016
EPA Says Glyphosate Not Likely To Cause Cancer
Paper says herbicide not carcinogenic at doses relevant for human health risk assessment. Read More
illustration showing data taken and recorded on new citrus varieties
Varieties & Rootstocks
September 20, 2016
Is Citrus Ready To Break Out Of The Bubble?
Opportunity for enhanced data collection process at variety display days could give breeding and research teams a leg up in vetting sensible selections. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
September 29, 2016
Winter Is Coming, And It Could Get Wicke…
Forecast sees heightened freeze threat for Florida citrus; frequent snow to blast Northeast. Read More
Citrus
September 29, 2016
Celebrate National Farmer’s Day Ev…
Florida agriculture has a compelling story to tell every day, but what better time to tell it than National Farmer’s Day? Read More
Citrus
September 26, 2016
Presidential Candidates Comment On Agric…
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump weigh in on a number of topics of concern to growers. Read More
Citrus
September 26, 2016
Florida Sugarcane Industry Strengthening…
Pot sweetens with promotions for three executive staffers of the state’s Growers Cooperative. Read More
Citrus
September 22, 2016
Senate Committee Report Says WOTUS Refor…
A report issued from the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee says federal agencies overreach their authority to regulate Read More
Citrus
September 22, 2016
Citrus Tax Incentive A Big Step Closer T…
U.S. House vote ends in landslide of support for emergency legislation, which allows growers to immediately expense the cost of planting new trees. Read More
Citrus
September 20, 2016
Preventative Control Rules Now In Effect…
Facilities employing 500 or more people must meet new standards. Read More
Citrus
September 20, 2016
EPA Says Glyphosate Not Likely To Cause …
Paper says herbicide not carcinogenic at doses relevant for human health risk assessment. Read More
Business Planning
September 19, 2016
American Agricultural Exports Could Feel…
Despite headwinds, the U.S. remains the most stable economy in the world. Read More
Citrus
September 17, 2016
August Was The Hottest In 136 Years
The extended heat wave continues a streak of 11 consecutive months of record-setting temperatures. Read More
Citrus
September 15, 2016
What The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Means Thu…
The deal, subject to regulatory approval, would create the world’s largest agriculture company. Read More
Citrus
September 15, 2016
Support Strong For Emergency Citrus Legi…
Proposed bill that would increase fruit production figures through tax code tweaks passes first test in U.S. House Ways and Means Committee approval. Read More
Citrus
September 14, 2016
Bayer Acquires Monsanto After Months Of …
Mega-Merger sealed with $66 billion all-cash transaction. Read More
Citrus
September 13, 2016
Can CRISPR Carry Agriculture Innovation …
Game-changing technology allows targeted gene modification to fight diseases like citrus greening. Read More
Citrus
September 12, 2016
Historic Farmworker Overtime Law Approve…
California legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, is reviled by grower groups who say it will actually do economic harm to farmworkers. Read More
Citrus
September 12, 2016
FDA Allocates $21.8M To Help States Comp…
Funding has been awarded to assist 42 states with implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read More
Citrus
September 9, 2016
Are You Feeling Befuddled By Fickle Fore…
In any situation, proactivity pays. We can wait for the sky to fall, or we can sing in the rain. Read More
Citrus
September 8, 2016
Bayer Ups Monsanto Offer
German company increases offer by 2% for world’s largest seeds company. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]