Florida crops suffer millions in damage from cold
BY JOHN FRANK
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson estimated the price tag from the extended freeze in the hundreds of millions of dollars, though he cautioned the extent of the damage is still largely unknown.
"This is the longest duration of cold in 60 years,'' he said.
In a Wednesday briefing for lawmakers, Bronson said preliminary reports show at least 30 percent of the state's crops were destroyed when below freezing temperatures gripped the state for nearly two weeks.
"That doesn't mean we lost everything,'' he cautioned. "We are hoping they can salvage as much as they can.''
Now that temperatures have thawed, damage assessment teams are visiting farmers throughout the state to get a better picture of what was lost. But already it's clear that fish farmers took the biggest hit with most losing their entire stock. And pole bean prices shot from $10 a crate before the freeze to $45 a crate this week, Bronson said. For strawberries, citrus and squash, it's a waiting game to see what is left after the protective ice melts from the crops.
It’s a testament to our outstanding food supply system and the hard work of farmers that food is still readily available after all of the hardships agriculture has faced lately. Between water shortages in California, horrible planting and harvesting conditions in the heartland and now killer frosts in our southernmost regions, food should be scarcer than it is. But I can guarantee that you will not be seeing any empty grocery store shelves anytime soon.