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BARTOW – As the nation’s lawmakers debated disaster recovery funding as part of a longer-term spending bill Thursday, the United States Department of Agriculture announced yet another decrease in the size of the Florida Orange crop this season due to Hurricane Irma.

The USDA’s report estimates Florida Orange production for 2017-18 at 45 million boxes, a 35 percent decrease over last season and the lowest crop size in more than 75 years. The USDA’s initial crop forecast in October estimated 54 million boxes of oranges. Florida Grapefruit production remained at 4.65 million boxes, a decrease of 40 percent over last season.

“While this is certainly lower than initial estimates, it was not unexpected. We are still hopeful the remainder of the season holds stable,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “Should disaster recovery funding pass today, it would give growers the confidence they need to continue making investments to keep this season’s crop stable and produce more Florida Citrus in the years to come.”

Hurricane Irma had a devastating impact on the Florida Citrus industry. Florida growers reported 30 to 70 percent crop loss after Hurricane Irma’s landfall on September 10, with the southwest region of the state receiving the most damage. The hurricane uprooted trees and left many groves sitting in standing water for up to three weeks, potentially damaging the root systems and impacting future seasons’ growth.

In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that Florida Citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages due to Hurricane Irma.

Prior to Hurricane Irma, Florida was expected to produce about 75 million boxes of oranges this season, according to private estimates.

About the Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry.  Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels.  The industry employs 45,000 people, provides an annual economic impact of $8.6 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.