Archive for January 12, 2011

USDA begins surveying damage to citrus crop

January 12, 2011 Comments off
LAKE COUNTY — Plan on paying more for fruits and vegetables over the next couple of months. Florida’s freezes wiped out thousands of acres worth of agriculture and millions of cases of food.

Bruce Rottman is picking fruit to get a picture of how bad Florida’s freezes were on citrus.

Rottman works with the USDA, surveying crops to assess damage.

“There’s one right here that’s on the border line,” Rottman said. “It’s got some damage right here where you can see the wavy segment wall there. The fruit is dry right here.”

Nick Faryna, a third generation citrus grower, owns these groves.

He faired surprisingly well, but said the citrus industry will definitely feel the one-two punch from the freezes over the last month.

“Normally we catch the brunt of every system that comes through,” Faryna said. “In this particular event, the air came in so strongly for two days, the air worked its way all the way to South Florida. It was kind of a democratic event. Everyone caught a little bit of it this time.”

Some got hit a lot worse than others.

“There are some areas in Lake County where I have seen some pretty good damage,” Rottman said.

At a grove in Howey-in-the-Hills, most of the leaves are gone and the trees look weathered by winter.

Rottman said this is how it looked after the notorious freezes in the 1980s that wiped out much of the citrus industry here.

“Growers that were in the lower grounds, the sheltered and protected areas really caught the brunt of it this time. And it’s pretty much industry-wide this time,” Faryna said.

Overall, Faryna said about 25 percent of the fruit in his groves suffered some sort of damage from the freezes.

Now, there’s a rush among citrus growers across the state to get that fruit into the orange juice factories before more of it hits the ground.

“It could have been worse,” Faryna said.

Every time there’s a freeze and damage to Florida agriculture, big money is lost here in the state.