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Florida's citrus industry impacted by Hurricane Irma's wrath

Irma destroys Florida crops
Hurricane Irma impacts Florida's vital citrus industry 02:02

Most years, Florida supplies about half of America's orange juice. But Hurricane Irma wiped out much of this year's crop in just a few hours -- another blow for farmers who have battled a devastating crop disease for years. 

More than 60 percent of Paul Meador's crop is either in the water or in the dirt. Thousands of trees were ripped out of the ground by Irma's blistering winds. 

"This normally would not be harvested until April or May," Meador said. "There's nothing there to salvage, no. They're too immature." 

Meador's crop was destined to become orange juice. But now, with much of it floating in 3 feet of floodwaters, it looks more like an orange soup. 

"As you can see from the amount of fruit on the ground, this is more than an average crop," he said. "It was a banner year. If we had delivered this crop, we probably would have been back in the black for the first time in a very long time." 

Hurricane Irma wiped out much of this year's citrus crop in just a few hours.  CBS News

But all that fruit made these trees top heavy -- pushovers for Irma. 

Trees left in water for more than three days could also rot or die. Meador's losses could be up to $9 million, and he's not the only one. 

Gene McAvoy, an agriculture expert with the University of Florida, faces the same issue. He says "every acre" of 125,000 acres of citrus groves was damaged. 

"Ninety-five percent of the oranges in Florida, particularly in this region, go for juice," McAvoy said. "You're gonna pay a lot more for orange juice." 

Growers say the orange trees were subjected to so much stress. They expect some of the remaining fruit will not survive.

The damage is so bad that the Secretary of Agriculture is planning to come to Florida to see it for himself. 

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