Are You Feeling Befuddled By Fickle Forecasts? [Opinion]

Forecasts: You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without them. Excuse me if you’ve read something similar to this effect while perusing my column in the past. But, the recent whirlwind of prognostication has me feeling perplexed.

It’s amazing how much trust we put into computer models, bar charts, and possibly a Magic 8 Ball or two — but we do. I was inspired to address this topic again thanks to a trio of forecasts (the perfect storm, if you will) that all recently dropped about the same time.

Despite the outlook overload, we just can’t seem to quell our curiosity. Based on reader metrics, the articles posted on GrowingProduce.com related to these industry-impacting predictions scored well, which means one thing is 100% certain: Anxiety is in the air about what the coming season will bring.

Tropic Thunder

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) mid-season update stirred things up by painting a picture of a much more stormy scenario compared to its initial outlook issued in May. Last week, Florida’s 11-year hurricane-less streak was broken with the Big Bend landfall of Hermine, a Category 1 soaker.

NOAA forecasters are expecting a 70% chance of 12 to 17 named storms, five to eight of which are expected to become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes. Numbers aside, the “Mean Season” has officially returned to the Sunshine State. Stay prepared.

Winter Whoa

Speaking of weather, the age-old almanacs (“The Farmers’ Almanac” and “The Old Farmer’s Almanac”) foresee a rough winter ahead for most of the U.S. — Florida included.

Last year, we were talking about El Niño and its influence on weather pattern extremes. The “little boy” certainly delivered mischief detrimental to many crops. His sister, La Niña, is likely to take over this winter. What does that mean for us? In a word, according to both almanacs, wet. Temps are a toss-up between the two. In the meantime, check your fungicide reserves.

Sweet Or Sour Citrus

Finally, the first stab at Florida’s 2016-2017 production figures was nothing less than sobering. Citrus economic consultant Elizabeth Steger pegged the state’s orange output to come in at 60.5 million boxes. She noted HLB’s continued spread, exacerbated by the presence of postbloom fruit drop in groves, as the main reason behind the major decline.

USDA’s initial season estimate will be revealed in October. Many of you, like myself, will be watching anxiously to see where the numbers fall. Once they do, we’ll go back to work.

Thankfully, work now includes opportunity via a new citrus planting incentive. Backed by FDACS, the $5.5 million Citrus Grove Renovation/Re-establishment Support Program was created to help growers renew citrus groves by providing 75% cost-share on eligible improvements in irrigation and nutrient management and 100% on engineering and design costs. Can’t say there’s no reason to put some love back into our signature crop.

In any situation, proactivity pays. We can wait for the sky to fall, or we can sing in the rain. Either way, you best bring an umbrella.

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