Hurricane Irma 'lethal' for Florida citrus, other crops, Putnam says

USDA citrus forecast down 21 percent

By Ben Kotenko - Digital Intern , Associated Press
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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Fla - The first word on Florida's 2017-2018 citrus crop is decidedly negative.

In a statement released to comment on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's initial crop forecast, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said, “Hurricane Irma’s path could not have been more lethal to Florida citrus."

He went on to explain that he had concern's with the USDA's forecast, specifically that it does not "accurately estimate the damages to our industry, given that groves are still under water and fruit is still dropping from trees. It’s important to recognize that the damage to Florida citrus is still unfolding, and will continue to for some time."

The USDA's estimate for 54 million boxes of oranges this season, is down from 68. 7 million a season ago. 

The Associated Press is reporting that losses this season are also going to include peanuts, strawberries, cotton, tomatoes, and poinsettias.

"Irma hit us just a month ago and although we respect the skill and professionalism of the USDA, there is no way they can put out a reliable number in that short time period," said Michael W. Sparks, CEO of the Florida Citrus Mutual.

Following Irma, Putnam stated that Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages, and this week he was in Washington D.C. discussing the effects of Irma and make a case for federal assistance.

“One thing is clear, Florida’s growers need support and they need it fast," Putnam said.

The agricultural losses are expected to affect consumers, but how much so is still to be determined.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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