January 23, 2009

Freeze threatens Florida crops

A winter chill has threatened several crops in Florida including citrus fruits, strawberries and tomatoes, a state agricultural official said.

Many crops damaged by freezing temperatures that reached South Florida Wednesday are nearing harvest, prompting Gov. Charlie Crist to order a moratorium on produce truck weight limits to allow producers to rush crops to processing plants, USA Today reported Friday.

This is peak harvest season for many Florida crops, so damage at this time could have significant consequences stretching far outside Florida's borders, said state Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.

Among the threatened businesses, tropical fish farms reported water temperatures falling into the upper 40s, below the 52 degree Fahrenheit threshold for many tropical fish species.

Eighty percent of the industry resides within 50 miles of Tampa International Airport, Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association Executive Director David Boozer said.

Threatened species include South American and African cichlids, mollies, angelfish and tetras, Boozer said.