Florida's Citrus Industry Is Still Suffering From Hurricane Irma
by Mitchell Hartman, Marketplace
Posted: 2017-12-04 09:04:05 EST

When Hurricane Irma made landfall in Southwest Florida on Sept. 10, the state’s citrus groves were hit especially hard. And they were already vulnerable, after more than a decade of struggle against a devastating crop disease. Hurricane Irma’s severe winds, rain and flooding left extensive damage in the groves, which growers say will take years to recover.

Paul Meador, a fourth-generation citrus grower, has spent the last two and a half months assessing damage and supervising cleanup of his family’s groves and logistics facilities across Southwest Florida. The company, Everglades Harvesting & Hauling, supplies juice oranges to Florida’s Natural coop.  His operation has 50 full-time employees and typically hires about 500 seasonal workers on temporary work visas to pick and process fruit. It is based in LaBelle, Florida, in Hendry County, northeast of Marco Island, where Hurricane Irma came ashore after first crossing the Florida Keys.

One of Meador’s groves occupies 500 acres east of Naples, Florida. It’s surrounded by small canals, dense forest and swampland.

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