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
OrangesScientists Center On Sweet Spot For Processed Oranges
January 24, 2015
Unique approaches and techniques being employed to sustain and squeeze more out of critical research. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Horticulture, Agriculture
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
CitrusAsian Citrus Psyllid Marches North In California Citrus Belt
January 22, 2015
Part of one of the richest agricultural areas in the U.S., Fresno County, has been quarantined. Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More
MarketingFlorida Citrus Commission Probes Federal Marketing Order For Orange Juice
January 21, 2015
Meeting to be scheduled for March to vet possibilities. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches Latest Insecticide, Sivanto
January 20, 2015
New product delivers precision pest control to preserve the health of plants and protect fruit and vegetable crops. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Stay Grounded When Reaching For Lofty Goals [Opinion]
January 20, 2015
Unmanned aerial vehicles are all the rage. Can and will this technology become a standard tool for farmers? Read More
The Latest
CitrusNominees Sought For Florida Agricultural Environmental …
January 26, 2015
Honor recognizes those developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices. Read More
CitrusIncreased Global Trade Opportunity Equals New Threats F…
January 26, 2015
Despite expanding business abroad, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says he's confident in the protocols in place to prevent entry of invasive pests and disease. Read More
CitrusShopping For UAVs? Here Are 2 To Consider
January 25, 2015
Check out a couple of high-flying options from Altavian. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Hor…
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
CitrusAsian Citrus Psyllid Marches North In California Citrus…
January 22, 2015
Part of one of the richest agricultural areas in the U.S., Fresno County, has been quarantined. Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 C…
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches Latest Insecticide, Sivanto
January 20, 2015
New product delivers precision pest control to preserve the health of plants and protect fruit and vegetable crops. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Stay Grounded When Reaching For Lofty Go…
January 20, 2015
Unmanned aerial vehicles are all the rage. Can and will this technology become a standard tool for farmers? Read More
CitrusScientists Say 2014 Warmest Year Since 1880
January 19, 2015
Separate studies by NASA and NOAA confirm continuance of long-term warming trend. Read More
CitrusFormer Florida Citrus Packers Leader Passes Away Unexpe…
January 19, 2015
Richard Kinney was a longtime liason and champion for the industry. Read More
CitrusElevated Expectations For UAV Use In Agriculture
January 15, 2015
Uncertainties aside, many believe unmanned aircraft will find a lasting place in farming. Read More
CitrusFire Ravages California Citrus Packinghouse
January 15, 2015
Close to $1 million worth of boxes, pallets reportedly burned up at Sunkist-operated facility. Read More
CitrusLatest Florida Citrus Forecast Hits Season’s First Snag
January 12, 2015
Overall orange production reduced by 5 million boxes. Read More
CitrusFreeze Threat Has Florida Growers On Alert
January 7, 2015
Technology to help producers prepare for, endure cold snap. Read More
CitrusStudy Predicts No Farmers And Ranchers Under Age 35 By …
January 7, 2015
Research conducted in Wyoming examines how the agricultural community is aging and what needs to be done to encourage young people to pursue a career in farming. Read More
CitrusDitch Party Politics To Move Forward With Immigration R…
January 3, 2015
The President’s proposed immigration plan has drawn criticism from agricultural sectors, but is an important first step in fixing the long-broken system. Read More
CitrusAsk, Think, And Plan Before Joining The Family Business
January 1, 2015
Returning to the farm is often an emotional decision, rather than a carefully considered career move. Read More
CitrusIndian River Citrus Icon Passes Away At 95
December 31, 2014
Dan Richardson was known for making a positive impact in the industry and local community. Read More