72ºF

Florida farmers brace for cold weather

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida farmers were preparing Thursday for continuing cold weather, with temperatures expected to drop into the 30s overnight as far south as Fort Myers and Homestead.

Many of Florida's crops cannot handle freezing temperatures for long periods. Citrus and strawberry farmers are preparing harvests ahead of time, often running irrigation systems to create small layers of ice over the fruit to protect it from a hard freeze.

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Aaron Keller said it has already been a tough year for the agriculture industry after Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage in September.

He said a hard freeze would make the situation worse.

“Right now, the forecasts have the freeze line just above most of our winter production, so we are in good shape. But, if that goes south just a little bit it could be very damaging.” Keller said.

As of mid-day Thursday, freezing temperatures had only affected North Florida, where crops are typically more cold-tolerant.

A freeze warning was in effect for Thursday night in the Orlando area and inland areas of South and Southwest Florida.