TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson has requested and received from the state's governor an Executive Order extending for an additional seven days a state of emergency to assist farmers dealing with crop damage from the freeze.
The Jan. 19 order directs the state Department of Transportation to extend the lifting of weight, height, length and width restrictions for commercial vehicles transporting vulnerable crops to processing sites.
"Growers are taking advantage of the improved weather to salvage as many fruit and vegetable crops as possible to mitigate the damage and their losses," Commissioner Bronson said in a Jan. 19 press release. "The ability to get the products where they need to go is critical to reducing the losses and ensuring these commodities get to the public."
The department is continuing to assess the damage caused by the record- breaking cold temperatures that battered the state for more than a week. Mr. Bronson said that the losses could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars but that it is not possible to put a number on the crop losses until farmers are done harvesting as much as they can.
He added that there may be damages that are not yet apparent, such as fungal and bacterial problems as well as root rot caused by increased irrigation followed by rainy weather over the weekend of Jan. 16-17.
Mr. Bronson said that it is important that the state correctly assess the damage because the information will be provided to the federal government as growers seek assistance in the coming weeks and months.
But he also wanted to remind people that while there has been damage, Florida still has products and is open for business.
For more information about the weight, height, length and width restrictions for vehicles transporting crops on Florida's highways, visit www.Florida- Agriculture.com.