The Big Chill

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When snow falls in Malibu, you know the weather is officially freaky. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed a state of emergency due to extremely low temperatures and freezing conditions in 10 counties, several of which are agricultural hubs. The governor has requested immediate federal aid from the Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture for farmers trying to protect crops.


“Preliminary data indicates that there may be more than $1 billion of damage to California agricultural products, including estimates of approximately $700 million in damages to the citrus crop, and major damages to the avocado and the strawberry crops,” the governor’s proclamation reads. The state is working with conventional and organic farmers to quickly assess damages so they can receive prompt financial and other assistance.

In a letter sent Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Schwarzenegger explained how a stalled arctic air mass is responsible for freezing conditions that are expected to continue through the middle of next week.

“These extreme weather conditions have had a devastating impact on California’s agricultural industry, exacting catastrophic losses on our citrus, avocado, vegetable and strawberry crops,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “California is the nation’s No. 1 producer of fresh citrus, and the damages to the citrus industry alone could surpass three-fourths of California’s overall production. In many cases, only a small percentage of the crops were harvested when the freeze began, with the result being that some California growers are reporting a complete loss of their crop. With freeze conditions expected to continue, there is little hope for many of these growers. The financial losses to the agricultural industry will likely reach $1 billion.”

Consumers of organic and nonorganic produce will feel the pinch at grocery and restaurant cash registers, and we can expect shortages of winter crops. One Los Angeles news anchor bemoaned a possible guacamole-free Super Bowl Sunday.

Growers are expected to import fruit from other countries.

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