Two managers of a Florida farm-labor contracting company are going to federal prison for their role in a multi-state racketeering and human trafficking scheme. Between 2015 and 2017, federal prosecutors say, the company forced more than a dozen workers on H-2A visas to harvest crops against their will, while paying them less than they were owed. (No paywall)
Florida's signature crop, citrus, accounted for one-third of the losses suffered by the state's farming sector last month from Hurricane Ian, said a preliminary damage assessment by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Estimates of total agricultural damages ranged from $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion.
The Biden administration will address Mexico's trade practices although it will not open a formal investigation into unfair government support of the produce industry, said the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association on Sunday.
The U.S. orange crop will plunge to 3.88 million tons this year, down 12 percent from last season, said the USDA on Tuesday in its first forecast of the new crop. Both of the leading orange states would see large reductions: Florida down by 11 percent and California down by 13 percent.
Thanks to a huge decline in the Florida crop this season, California is running neck and neck with the Sunshine State as the top orange-producing state with the harvest season in its final weeks, said the USDA. California has expanded production in recent years while output in Florida, hit by the tree-killing citrus greening disease, has fallen steeply over the past two decades.
In the last several weeks, health workers in Immokalee, Florida, the nation’s tomato-growing capital, have detected an alarming spike in Covid-19 cases: an average of 24 new positives a day, reports Elizabeth Royte in FERN's latest story. (No paywall)
The city commissioners of Sarasota, Florida, decided Monday to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency opposing an aquaculture pilot project that sought to farm fish about 45 miles off the city's coast. In the letter, signed by Sarasota mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, the commissioners file "strong and formal opposition" to the project.
High winds and heavy rains are possible along the East Coast from Florida northward through the Carolinas, said the National Hurricane Center on Monday. A private forecaster said the hurricane could threaten citrus crops in Florida but the North Carolina Pork Council said hog farmers could handle the expected 4 to 10 inches of rain without damage to manure lagoons.
The Commerce Department and Mexican tomato growers initialed a new agreement that, beginning on Sept. 19, will control U.S. imports of roughly $2 billion a year worth of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, said officials from both nations on Wednesday.
Georgia, the No. 2 cotton state, lost one-third of its crop to Hurricane Michael, said the USDA on Thursday in lowering its estimate of the total U.S. harvest by 7 percent because of storm damage in the Southeast.
Citrus production has trended downward for years, but it dropped abruptly, by 20 percent, in the just-ended 2017/18 season, affected greatly by Hurricane Irma in Florida, said the USDA in its annual Citrus report.
Nearly 11 months after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas, the USDA said it will pay up to $900,000 in disaster relief to producers who suffered losses due to hurricanes or wildfires last year.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a $340 million block grant to Florida on Tuesday to help citrus growers recover from Hurricane Irma, which hit the state just as the fruit was ready for harvest. The grant is part of $2.36 billion in disaster relief approved by Congress to help nine states that suffered hurricane or wildfire damage last year.
Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida’s citrus crop in September, and now a hard freeze is possible in the northeastern portion of the citrus belt, says weather consultancy Radiant Solutions.
The House passed an $81-billion disaster relief bill that includes $3.8 billion for farmers and ranchers, with Florida expected to get a large share of that money, said The Hill newspaper.
The $81-billion disaster bill written by House Republicans includes $3.8 billion in disaster relief for farmers and ranchers, with Florida expected to get a large part of the money.
The USDA cut its estimate of Florida’s orange crop for the second time in two months, raising the possibility that California will be the No. 1 orange grower in the country this season.
Florida, the largest citrus-growing state in the nation, will harvest less than three-fourths as many oranges as last year because of damage from Hurricane Irma, said the USDA. In its monthly crop report, the agency estimated orange production at 50 million boxes, 9-percent less than it estimated a month ago and 27-percent less than the 2016/17 crop of 68.75 million boxes.