Florida Farmers Brace as Irma Threatens $1.2 Billion of Crops

Hurricane Irma is threatening to wreak havoc on Florida farmlands, threatening $1.2 billion worth of production in the top U.S. grower of fresh tomatoes, oranges, green beans, cucumbers, squash and sugarcane.

Though its economy long ago diversified from its rural roots, Florida still has a huge influence on American grocery stores as the No. 2 U.S. produce grower, trailing only California.

The state accounts for almost 10 percent of the nation’s land dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables, according to government data. The storm threat has pushed orange-juice futures and domestic-sugar prices higher this week.

For farmers such as Andy McDonald, who grows strawberries in Plant City, Florida, there’s only so much that can be done to prepare for the damage. His fields are ready for planting his winter crop next week. But if punishing rains and overpowering winds tear away the sheeting already laid down over 500 acres that

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