Update: DeSantis Issues Emergency Order To Help Farmers Impacted By Freezing Temperatures

By  //  March 22, 2022

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on February 2 declaring a state of emergency in counties hit by an extreme cold front in late January. Brevard County is among the 30 counties affected by this order, which grants Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie oversight as state coordinating officer.

Guthrie will be responsible for implementing the state’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and any other measures deemed necessary to allow farms to recover from the freezing temperatures.

Emergency Harvests

One such measure is the emergency harvest of frostbitten crops, expected to be implemented in farms across Brevard County and many others. The emergency order relaxes restrictions on commercial vehicle weight and driving time for those helping with the harvest. Seminole County citrus farmer Olivier Welscher hopes the frostbitten fruit can be turned into juice before it begins to thaw.

“When you have a freeze, if the freeze lasts longer than 6 to 8 hours, and if it gets really cold, it will freeze the juice in the fruit solid. And then as soon as it thaws out, the fruit will start to drop and rot,” Welscher said. As fruit that is frostbitten cannot be sold unless it is turned into juice, supply of local fruit is likely to fall short of demand over the coming weeks. Brevard County residents may already be seeing the impacts of this in rising fruit prices.

Continued Assessment Of Damages

In the weeks following the freeze, farmers continue to assess damages and work to salvage impacted produce across the state. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) had staff in the fields last week to gain a comprehensive picture of the impacts of the cold front. FDACS Bureau Chief of Inspection Liz Miller was met with farmers in South Florida on Tuesday to view impacted fields.

This has been a wake-up call for farmers across Florida to take precautions to prepare for extreme weather. Although crops are hit the hardest, equipment such as tractors and other tools can be affected by extreme weather too. According to SkidHeaven.com, to keep your farming equipment in good condition, proper maintenance is essential.

Tools with metal or electronic parts should be kept undercover, and always dried after use. Blades should be regularly sharpened, and metal parts regularly greased. When replacing broken parts, it is worth investing in high-quality products. Although the parts will cost more, you will save more money in the long run as the parts will last longer and there will be less downtime.

The state of emergency declaration from Governor DeSantis was requested by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “I’m glad to see our emergency requests were granted expeditiously, helping our Florida farmers in their response and recovery efforts as their harvests were hurt by record cold temperatures,” said Commissioner Fried.

“Our department continues to work closely with our industry partners as damage assessments continue and will request further state and federal assistance as needed to help our producers respond to and recover from this extreme weather event. Together, we’ll keep Florida growing and our state’s agriculture industry strong.”