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Bronson: Extended freeze destroyed at least 30 percent of Florida crops

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson on Wednesday estimated the price tag from the extended freeze in the hundreds of millions, though cautioned the extent of the damage is still largely unknown.

"This is the longest duration of cold in 60 years," Bronson 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," Bronson cautioned. "We are hoping they can salvage as much as they can."

Now that temperatures are rising, 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.

A byproduct of the freeze meant farmers pumped so much water to spray crops that it led to numerous sinkholes, especially around Plant City and in Polk County. Officials estimated the underground aquifer fell 60 feet.

But Bronson said the farmers "had to do what was available to them" to save the crops.

Bronson: Extended freeze destroyed at least 30 percent of Florida crops 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 5:16pm]

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