IRMA: Citrus industry looking at massive losses from hurricane damage

By Rick Elmhorst, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 4:12 PM EDT

Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson toured an orange grove in Lake Wales Wednesday morning to get a first-hand look at the damage cause by Hurricane Irma.

The main issue is fruit knocked to the ground by the wind.

"In Hendry County, they are losing actually 75 percent of the early crop," Sen. Nelson said while walking with grower Kyle Story.

"Yes sir. Those are the early reports we are getting," Story said in response.

Some groves in other parts of the state have been hit hard by flooding. It all adds up to big losses.

"It's a devastating blow for our industry," said Story.

Florida's citrus industry was hit hard by several hurricanes in 2004, but Story sees this as worse because of the size of Irma and its path.


Sen. Marco Rubio surveys the damage at a Polk County orange grove after Hurricane Irma. (Rick Elmhorst, Staff)

"I've never seen a statewide hurricane in my lifetime doing this kind of devastation," said Story.

Sen. Rubio picked up some still green oranges that had fallen to the ground. Rubio believes the extent of the damage will be realized as more fruit continues to fall.

"And they are going to lose more of these in the days to come. More will fall off," he said.

Both senators promised to work hard to get federal disaster aid for the citrus industry.

"So we have to build support now to go back and not just assess the damage, but what's the best way to deliver assistance to keep the industry alive in our state," said Rubio.