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

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More
FruitsSpotted Wing Drosophila Populations Rising In Michigan
August 26, 2014
Extension researchers advise berry growers on trapping, salt testing to take stock of pest population. Read More
Apples & PearsNorthwest Pear Crop Estimate Revised Upward
August 26, 2014
Washington and Oregon pear growers forecast a larger size crop than that originally estimated. Read More
VegetablesAgrium Acquires A Controlling Interest In Biotech Compa…
August 26, 2014
The company also acquires stake in Agricen Sciences as part of strategic effort to expand their offering of integrated, next-generation plant health technologies. Read More
Insect ControlCover All Angles When Taking On Threecornered Alfalfa H…
August 25, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, and management methods for this insect pest. Read More
GrapesEarthquake Shakes Up Napa Wine Industry
August 25, 2014
Sunday’s early morning quake was centered just six miles from the city of Napa. Read More