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Putnam: Irma An 'Existential' Threat To Florida Citrus

St. Petersburg Times

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says Hurricane Irma has left the state’s iconic citrus industry in tatters.

No dollar loss is available, but Putnam says the storm stripped 80 percent of fruit from trees in Southwest Florida, adding insult to an industry already decimated by the plant disease, citrus greening.

“A 70 percent crop loss on a crop that is 70 percent smaller than it was 20 years ago presents a unique and existential threat to the industry and the processing capacity of the state.”

Central Florida crop losses may be lower, but Putnam says he witnessed thousands of acres of flooded groves, threatening massive tree loss.

Vegetable growers are unlikely to replant damaged crops in time to compete with their Mexican counterparts, Putnam says.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.