Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has requested and received an extension of the Governor's Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in order to help farmers respond to this week's cold snap.
The extension will continue the temporary suspension of weight restriction for trucks until Dec. 31.
Bronson originally requested the Emergency Order on Dec. 10, just prior to the freeze so farmers could harvest as much of their crops as possible and get them out of harm's way. It was set to expire on Dec. 17. However, Bronson says the agriculture industry is now in salvage mode and needs to continue harvesting and transporting crops to processing and retail facilities before they rot.
"Once products such as citrus fall to the ground they are no longer salvageable," Bronson said. "The faster farmers can harvest and transport their crops the fewer losses they will experience. Getting these agricultural products to market quickly will also help consumers by helping avoid price hikes that can be caused by limited supply."
The two-week extension will give the agriculture industry time to harvest crops without overloading processing facilities.
"A longer time period to harvest will help ensure that more crops can be salvaged," Bronson said. "Processors can only handle a certain amount of products and it doesn't make sense to have crops rotting in a truck."
Bronson has alerted organizations representing the state's agricultural producers and trucking interests of the Governor's action so they can load and transport crops in accordance with the relaxed highway restrictions. Florida's growers produce nearly all the nation's domestically produced fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter.
For information about the weight, height, length and width restrictions for vehicles transporting crops on Florida's highways, and information about DOT Road Use Permit Letters, visit http://www.fdotmaint.com/PermitNew/home.asp.