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California freeze causes record citrus losses

Oranges are covered with ice at the Keith A. Nilmeier Farms on January 16, 2007 in Fresno, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: Four days of widespread freezing temperatures have heavily damaged Central California's $1.3 billion citrus crop. As much as three-quarters of the crop has been destroyed, and $350 million worth of avocados have also been badly hurt. Most farmers carry crop insurance, but as Marketplace's Steve Tripoli reports, that can't begin to address the financial hit.


STEVE TRIPOLI: Citrus grower Philip LoBue says there's no real way for insurance to replace most profits in a year like this.

That's because there's no sure way to measure how high profits would have been.

PHILIP LOBUE: Basically, it just covers your cost of production. You can determine what you've lost in the number of cartons, but not so much in the value for those cartons.

He says that means farmers faced with losing half to three-quarters of their remaining harvest are feeling pretty powerless.

LOBUE: You know all your work for the year is gone and you'll settle in to a kind of a. . . a mode of despair, I guess, for awhile.

Workers take a big hit, too.

LoBue says that even after picking through what's undamaged, the harvest — and jobs — will end two months early.

Officials say central California's third big frost in 20 years will also be its most costly.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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