Florida blueberry growers don’t have a lot to be happy about for the 2015-16 season. While many in the ag industry undoubtedly enjoyed the warm weather of last winter, it spelled a ruined season for The Sunshine State’s blueberry producers.

Winter Blues for Florida Growers

Blueberry bushes need a measure of cold weather, and the warm and wet weather in the last months of 2015 and into 2016 didn’t allow the bushes to get the chill hours they needed. Then, the weather took a turn to the cool side during fruit set and development. Lastly, to add insult to injury, wind and hail damaged a fair amount of fruit.

The end result was a delayed season that lost Florida it’s first-to-market (with the US) advantage. While blueberry producers in other states like Georgia and the Carolinas suffered from similar issues with chill hours, it wasn’t to the same degree, and their fruit still hit the market relatively on time, pushing Florida blueberries aside.

Florida berries became more expensive to pick and to process than berries from other states. Many Florida growers were left with fruit on the bush and no buyer. Many chose to open their fields to U-Pick, many for free, as the best possible option.

Disaster Declaration

Blueberry shipments this season were almost half of what they were last year—335 this year compared to 619 from last season. Blueberry growers are hoping for a disaster declaration from the USDA. In an open letter from Blueberry Grower Association President Dudley Calfee, Calfee assured the Association is committed to finding assistance for growers. They have been in touch with representatives from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FLDACS) for whatever help the department can offer, though FLDACS can’t do anything at the state level with concerns to a disaster declaration.

Calfee has also been in contact with the Farm Service Agency. He maintains that any grower with losses greater than 30 percent should report them to the Association so they can be tallied. It could take through the summer for a declaration to come through.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.