agriculture

J Pat Carter / AP Photo

Florida's iconic palm trees are under attack from a fatal disease that turns them to dried crisps in months, with no chance for recovery once they become ill.

Spread by a rice-sized, plant-hopping insect, lethal bronzing has gone from a small infestation on Florida's Gulf Coast to a nearly statewide problem in just over a decade. Tens of thousands of palm trees have died from the bacterial disease, and the pace of its spread is increasing, adding to environmental woes of a state already struggling to save its other arboreal icon, citrus trees, from two other diseases.

Carl Juste/Miami Herald

Randall Dasher is a fourth-generation Florida farmer and until last year, he never had a crop of iron-clay cowpeas fail.

"Something has changed and somewhere, someway, that has affected our yields," he said Monday during a panel at the University of Florida, where farmers met with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, scientists and agriculture officials.

Humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change.

The panel of scientists looked at the climate change effects of agriculture, deforestation and other land use, such as harvesting peat and managing grasslands and wetlands. Together, those activities generate about a third of human greenhouse gas emissions, including more than 40% of methane.

Gerard Albert / WLRN

In rural Redland, on the frontier of the Everglades National Park, big white letters that read “ROBERT IS HERE” have welcomed visitors for nearly six decades into a cornucopia of South Miami-Dade’s local and exotic fruits and vegetables. 

However, the fruit stand's identity as a provider of the area’s agricultural products to be consumed surrounded by quiet fields is at risk, said owner Robert Moehling and his family.

 

Patrick Fergusson / Sierra Club

Sugar cane burning remains a controversial practice in rural communities in Western Palm Beach County. From October until April, sugar cane growers burn the outer leaves of the cane plants in order to harvest the sugar. 

NIKKI FRIED CAMPAIGN

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried ran on a platform of what she called 'the three W’s': weapons, water and weed. Within months of her swearing in, it’s that last W that’s already generating a buzz around the state. 

Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition / Courtesy

For the past 68 years the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition has brought fun amusement park rides, funnel cakes and magic shows to South Florida. But it's more than just fun; organizers also want to educate kids on the agriculture industry. This year's fair, which has been going since March 14, is training the future generation of farmers.

University of Florida researchers have made some headway in their quest for cultivating vanilla plants that would thrive in the state.


Hemp in Florida is one step closer to legality. A measure legalizing hemp production passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.

Eric Perez and his wife, Mari, live with their five children in the Wenatchee Valley in central Washington state. Their house is just feet from an orchard. A couple of years ago, the kids were having an Easter egg hunt in the yard when they smelled something "plasticky," Perez remembers — like "rotten eggs."

Perez says they realized the orchard must have been sprayed while the family was away for their Easter lunch.

Perez says they got stomachaches, started throwing up and having trouble breathing and got diarrhea and scratchy throats.

Lawmakers unveiled the much-anticipated farm bill compromise Monday night, ending the months-long impasse over whether a critical piece of legislation that provides subsidies to farmers and helps needy Americans buy groceries could pass before the lame-duck session concludes at the end of the year.

Five years ago, Finca El Valle, a small, family-run coffee farm south of Antigua, Guatemala, was producing 140,000 pounds of superior-quality Arabica for a select handful of America's premier specialty-coffee roasters.

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. 

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