Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is alerting the state’s agricultural producers that some highway restrictions have been eased to enable them to quickly harvest and transport crops that are vulnerable to the impending freezing weather conditions.

Bronson’s alert follows Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s declaration of a state of emergency and issuance of an Executive Order last evening (Jan 14) that directs the state Department of Transportation to relax the weight, height, length and width restrictions for commercial vehicles transporting vulnerable crops to processing sites. The executive order remains in effect for 14 days.

“Transporting the vulnerable crops to processing sites without delay is necessary to save them from destruction,” Crist stated in the order. “The relaxation of the restrictions on the weight, height, length and width for commercial vehicles transporting these crops is necessary to protect the agricultural interests of the state.”

Bronson had requested that the governor issue the Executive Order when it became apparent a severe and potentially crop-damaging cold front was headed for Florida.

“Freezing weather creates a serious situation for our state’s agricultural producers, who now must rush to harvest their commodities to prevent the loss of this season’s crops,” Bronson said. “The temporary easing of some highway restrictions allows farmers to more quickly transport their crops to processing facilities, thereby avoiding financial disaster.”

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.

“This time of year is particularly critical for Florida’s growers, who produce nearly all of our nation’s domestically produced fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months,” Bronson said. “There’s a lot at stake here — not just for our state’s farmers, but for consumers all across the United States who count on Florida to provide them with fresh produce in the dead of winter.”

For more information about the weight, height, length and width restrictions for vehicles transporting crops on Florida’s highways, visit www.Florida-Agriculture.com.

“Florida agriculture is not usually visible to the general public, and, as a result, most Floridians and visitors are not aware of its vital importance to our state’s economy,” Bronson said. “Florida farmers receive $7 billion in cash receipts for crops and other commodities annually. In addition, Florida agriculture and forestry products have an estimated overall economic impact of more than $100 billion annually.”

More than 40,000 Florida commercial farmers are among the most productive in the world. Growing more than 280 different commercial crops, they furnish the nation with a dependable and safe supply of food, and provide Florida with a stable economic base. Florida farmers annually produce more than 35 billion pounds of food and more than 1.5 million tons of livestock feed.

Florida is the nation’s ninth agricultural state overall, ranking first in citrus production, and second in the production of vegetables and horticulture products.