agriculture

Florida's Agriculture Commissioner isn't just the chief champion of oranges, avocadoes and other products sprouting from soil in the Sunshine State. The post also is responsible for gun licenses, consumer complaints and has a role to play in the restoration of felon rights -assuming Amendment 4 fails to get at least 60 percent support in November.

It is a statewide elected position with several candidates vying for their party's nomination in the primary election of Aug. 28. 

Two weeks ago, Celestino Hilario Garcia was pulling out of his driveway in Delano, Calif., on his way to work in the fields. That's when three SUVs and two cars with flashing lights closed him in on both sides.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pulled Hilario Garcia out of the truck. He was arrested, and deported back to Mexico by the end of the day.

CAROL VANHOOK / CREATIVE COMMONS VIA FLICKR

The Florida citrus industry has experienced its worst harvest season since World War II as it continues to recover from Hurricane Irma.   

Orange production is off more than 34 percent from the last growing season, according to the News Service of Florida, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest forecast numbers show no improvement in that figure over the last month. 

Peter Haden / WLRN

Palm Beach County sugarcane growers have a new use for their crop: tableware.

Tellus Products’s new state-of-the-art facility in Belle Glade uses leftover sugarcane fiber, or bagasse, to produce biodegradable plates, bowls and take-out containers.

Gov. Rick Scott cut the ribbon on the 120,000-square-foot facility at a ceremony Tuesday.

Frustration is growing among Florida citrus farmers awaiting the distribution of $2.36 billion in federal disaster-relief money for agriculture losses sustained in Hurricane Irma.

The state’s highest court will not weigh in on Floridians’ right to front yard vegetable gardens. But the food fight isn’t over in the state capital. 

Amy Green / WMFE

Steve Messam describes his city, Belle Glade, as having two main exports:

"Sugar," he said, "and wide receivers."

Local lore has it that National Football League standouts -- including Super Bowl-winning wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Santonio Holmes -- hone their speed by chasing rabbits through burning fields, as controlled fires strip sugarcane of excess leaves in preparation for the harvest.

The cold front that moved through Florida this past weekend brought a light dusting of snow in some portions of the western Panhandle and even some light frost in Southwest Florida, but the cooler temperatures left Florida agriculture operations relatively unscathed. 

Automation. Development. Citrus Greening. Florida’s agriculture industry is hurting, and Hurricane Irma is only the most recent blow. During this year's legislative session, lawmakers will be considering how to support the industry, which is second only to tourism.

Dave Chapman and dozens of other longtime organic farmers packed a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board in Jacksonville, Fla., this week. It was their last-ditch effort to strip the organic label from a tide of fluid-fed, "hydroponic" greenhouse-grown vegetables that they think represent a betrayal of true organic principles.

Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won't.

Tom Hudson

Hurricane Irma dealt a blow to the agriculture industry in South Florida. Local damage estimates are still being calculated, but initial figures put it at around $250 million in Miami-Dade County alone. It’s too early to tell what the price of the storm will be for Palm Beach County farmers. The sugarcane harvest begins this month and crop loss will become more apparent.

It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Irma.

Yet many smaller communities in Florida’s rural counties are still suffering and need basic resources, according to a disaster relief expert with the Salvation Army.

From Cara Cara oranges to clementines, California's farmers deliver novel navels, mandarins and tangelos.

But the state's growers have watched with worry as the devastating disease known as citrus greening has crippled Florida's citrus industry. It's a threat not just to California's orange industry, but to the collection of rare, wild and heirloom varieties used to breed new crops that the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently "stores" in the state.

University of Florida researchers say they've found more beetles that can carry a disease threatening avocado trees.

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