February 27, 1998
Crawford Estimates Crop Damage at $100 Million
TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today that Florida has sustained an estimated $100 million in crop damage as a result of recurring winter storms. Most of the damage, Crawford said, has been to winter vegetables and strawberries.
"Weve been hit time and time again with El Nino storms, and they are beginning to take a toll on our crops," he said. "And the problem is compounded with the present weather pattern forecasted to continue well into the spring."
Even if a dry weather pattern settles over Florida immediately, the damage is expected to rise at least another $25 million because soggy ground has delayed vegetable planting in both Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, Crawford said.
Citrus appears to have sustained little damage, but assessments are only now taking place.
Regions and crops hardest hit by the storms include:
- Dade County, which has suffered estimated losses of $30 million to $35 million to its winter vegetable crop, including tomatoes, sweet corn, bell peppers and cucumbers.
- Southwest Florida, where winter vegetables have suffered $15 million in damage.
- The Hastings area in Northeast Florida, where potato and cabbage growers estimate losses at $20 million.
- The Plant City/Ruskin area, where Floridas strawberry crop has sustained about $10 million to $12 million in damage.
Crawford said that while Florida normally produces 8.2 million pounds of vegetables a day in February, it has produced an average of just 5.1 million pounds a day this month --- a reduction of nearly 39 percent.
The cutback in production undoubtedly will result in higher prices for fresh fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets, both in Florida and throughout the nation, he said. The fact that California has suffered even more crop damage than Florida from winter storms suggests that retail prices may remain high for a while.
In addition to crop damage, Crawford noted that Florida cattle are under extreme stress this winter due to flooded pastures and shortage of feed.
Cattle operations in Floridas major cattle-producing region, which runs from Suwannee to Hendry counties down the center of the state, are largely covered with water. Feeding stranded animals has become difficult because of flooded farm roads.
Cattlemen are scrambling to find high ground for their herds, but many are running out of such land. Some ranchers have resorted to turning their animals loose to survive on palmetto bushes in the nearby woods.
Dairies in Okeechobee, Floridas leading dairy county, report their cows are "up to their belly in mud and stressed out," Crawford said. "Its hurting production, but we dont know how much yet," he said.
For More Information: