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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Hurricane Damage to Florida Crops

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This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The state of Florida usually enjoys excellent weather conditions for agriculture. But this year, Florida has suffered from two major ocean storms. Hurricane Charley hit the western coast of Florida in the middle of August. Three weeks later, Hurricane Frances struck the eastern coast and crossed the state.

Florida's Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson estimates that the two storms have cost farmers between eight hundred and one thousand million dollars. Mister Bronson asked Florida Governor Jeb Bush to declare an agricultural disaster in thirteen counties.

Florida's total crop production is worth almost seven thousand million dollars. That is fourth in the nation.

The orange is Florida's biggest single crop. It is one of several kinds of citrus fruit. Florida has a sixty-eight percent share of the value of the fresh orange market.

The state's citrus industry is the most valuable in the country. Some reports place the total value of the industry at about nine thousand million dollars, including processed products.

The United States Department of Agriculture had expected a good citrus harvest for two thousand four. After Hurricane Charley, officials estimated that about twenty percent of the crop was lost.

Hurricane Frances affected many of the same areas. It brought winds of over one hundred fifty kilometers per hour. It also brought heavy rains and flooding to many areas. Citrus-producing areas like Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties were damaged by both storms.

Officials are still studying the damage to Florida's citrus crop. Reports suggest that the grapefruit harvest will be severely hurt.

Florida produces more than seventy percent of the country's grapefruit. Its share of the market is worth about two hundred million dollars.

Also, farmers are still trying to estimate the damage caused to the vegetable crop. Florida has the second most valuable vegetable crop of any state. It grows more than one fourth of America's tomatoes.

After Hurricane Charley, Congress approved two thousand million dollars in aid for Florida that President Bush requested. Hurricane Frances added to the damage. And now, areas of Florida have been preparing for the possible effects of another major ocean storm, Hurricane Ivan. The Atlantic hurricane season is just over halfway through.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Gwen Outen.

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