Jan 15, 2009
Florida Eases Truck Weight Rules To Save Crops from Freeze

Florida farmers can use bigger trucks to haul their crops to safety, thanks to an emergency declaration from Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Weight restrictions were eased yesterday by executive order and will remain in effect for two weeks.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson began alerting the state’s agricultural producers that some highway restrictions have been eased to enable them to quickly harvest and transport crops that are vulnerable to impending freezing weather conditions.

“Transporting the vulnerable crops to processing sites without delay is necessary to save them from destruction,” Crist said in the order. “The relaxation of the restrictions on the weight, height, length and width for commercial vehicles transporting these crops is necessary to protect the agricultural interests of the state.”

Temperatures in north Florida fell to 28˚ F overnight Jan. 14, and cold weather was expected through the weekend.

Bronson requested that the governor issue the executive order when it became apparent that a severe and potentially crop-damaging cold front was headed for Florida.

”Freezing weather creates a serious situation for our state’s agricultural producers, who now must rush to harvest their commodities to prevent the loss of this season’s crops,” Bronson said. “The temporary easing of some highway restrictions allows farmers to more quickly transport their crops to processing facilities, thereby avoiding financial disaster.

”This time of year is particularly critical for Florida’s growers, who produce nearly all of our nation’s domestically produced fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months,” Bronson said. “There’s a lot at stake here – not just for our state’s farmers, but for consumers all across the United States who count on Florida to provide them with fresh produce in the dead of winter.”

Potential damage depends upon how far south the freezing temperatures reach, according to Terence McElroy, a spokesperson at the state’s agriculture department.

At this time of year, ferns in the Orlando area are maturing in the leadup to Valentine’s Day, strawberries are being picked in the Tampa area, and tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans and squash are at risk in central Florida.

More cold-hardy crops like potatoes and cabbage are growing in northern Florida, and citrus crops extend from central Florida south.

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