Florida Growers Scrambling to Beat Cold Weather

Last Updated Jan 6, 2010 12:55 PM EST

For the most part, orange, strawberry and tomato crops are surviving the record cold snap in Florida, with "no significant damage" yet reported. But January is the middle of the growing season for these products, and the relentless cold has kept farmers in constant motion.

Citrus crops can't be below 27 degrees for more than three hours, so growers are struggling to get their crops picked and stored as quickly as possible, which is sending up labor costs. Farmers are also staying up to irrigate their fields in the middle of the night, a protective measure that "creates a fog in the groves that artificially lifts temperatures a few degrees to stave off potential freeze damage."

So far it's been enough, but there are concerns that if the cold weather keeps up, there could be problems. "We're right on the edge of crop damaging weather versus not having an impact," Florida Department of Citrus chief economist Bob Norberg said.

Orange juice futures shot up 7.8 percent on these worries, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed an executive order authorizing state agencies to help out growers out.

  • Katherine Glover