Freezing temperatures come with $11 million price tag

January 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
California Citrus Mutual, a statewide industry advocate, reported the frost protection efforts have cost nearly $11.5 million.

Critical efforts are being used as farmers spend their own money to protect their crop.

Farmers are using their own money to run wind machines and water groves to fight off frost. The California Citrus Mutual says its better to lose a bit off the bottom line than lose the crop all together.

Farmer Keith Nilmeier said the last few days had been tough.

Growers were on the fourth night of fighting off the frost. Naval orchards hit critical points when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees or below. Watering and switching on the wind machines helped fight for every decisive degree.

"I'll say it with tongue in cheek, we've been real fortunate, each night we've just dodged a bullet," Nilmeier said.

Farmer Bob Blakely says citrus crop damage could have a major impact on the roughly 25,000 people who work for or rely on the industry here in Central California.

"These last few nights have been a perfect example of just how a few degrees can make the difference between saving a crop and losing a crop," Blakely said. "It's really important for us to try and protect it, not only for the farmers livelihood, but for the benefit of the whole local economy,".

The Citrus Mutual says this stretch of cold nights is the first critical weather event so far this citrus season. Last year the industry spent $100 million on frost protection.

The Citrus Mutual says so far there has been no significant damage to the naval orange crop, and they are expecting minimal damage to mandarin oranges.That fruit is much smaller than what's growing on trees.