Cold still threatens California crops but it's easing

  • This Jan. 11, 2013, photo shows farm worker Javier Hernandez harvesting oranges in a grove to get ahead of the expected hard freeze in Ivanhoe, Calif. As an unusual cold spell gripped parts of the West for a fifth day, some California citrus growers reported damage to crops and an agriculture official said national prices on lettuce have started to rise because of lost produce in Arizona. (AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss) LOCAL PRINT OUT (VISALIA TIMES-DELTA, REEDY EXPONENT, KINGBURG RECORDER, SELMA ENTERPRISE, HANFORD SENTINEL, PORTERVILLE RECORDER, MADERA TRIBUNE, THE BUSINESS JOURANL FRENSO); LOCAL TV OUT (KSEE24, KFSN30, KGE47, KMPH26)

FRESNO — A cold snap that has California farmers struggling to protect a $1.5 billion citrus crop has slowly started to ease, though frigid temperatures were still the norm Tuesday morning throughout the state and across other parts of the West.

For a fifth night, temperatures in San Joaquin Valley, California's agricultural heart, dipped as low as 21 degrees.

"It was still a critical night" even though the temperatures were a degree or two warmer than previously, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, an association representing 2,200 growers who have roughly 65 percent of the state's citrus acreage.

Growers needed wind machines and irrigation to offset the cold, mainly with success. However, damage was predicted to the mandarin crop, a growing segment of the industry.

"We still think the navel oranges have come through in good shape," Blakely said.

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