Florida citrus losses are reported the worst in 75 years between Hurricane Irma and citrus greening, plus nearly two dozen Florida counties are declared disaster areas.
by Malena Carollo, Tampa Bay Times
After a decade of fighting a losing battle against a tree-killing disease (citrus greening) and declining yields, growers thought this year’s abundant crop promised a turnaround. Then, just weeks before harvest, Hurricane Irma hit.
“This was a real punch in the face,” said Andrew Meadows, spokesperson for citrus trade organization Florida Citrus Mutual.
Overcome by almost $800 million in losses from the hurricane, the state’s citrus industry is suddenly facing its lowest orange yield in 75 years, far worse than forecasts expected just a couple of months ago.
Although damage is still being assessed, the latest numbers released by the state put expected losses at roughly $761 million. Early estimates suggest that this year’s crop will be the single lowest yield since 1942.
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19 Florida Counties Declared Disaster Areas
A natural disaster declaration for 19 Florida counties issued by the USDA acknowledges widespread damage by Hurricane Irma.
As a result of the declaration farmers and ranchers in those areas are able to seek support, including emergency loans, from the Farm Service Agency, according to a news release.
“I thank U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for taking action to support Florida’s farmers and ranchers still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Irma, Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam said in the release. Our preliminary estimates peg the total damage at more than $2.5 billion, but it’s important to recognize that the damage is still unfolding.
“The disaster declaration provides much needed support, and I will continue working with (Florida Gov. Rick Scott) and our leaders in Washington to get Florida agriculture the relief it needs to rebuild,” Putnam said.
The USDA released its first citrus crop estimate recently, but industry members say the department grossly understated the extent of the damage from Irma.