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Citrus, lettuce are damaged as bitter cold grips western U.S.

California citrus growers reported damage to crops as bitter cold gripped the West, and an agriculture official said national prices on lettuce have started to rise because of lost produce in Arizona.
By GOSIA WOZNIACKA Published: January 15, 2013

Lindsey-based Robert LoBue — who grows 1,000 acres of citrus, including mandarins — said wind machines were critical in his groves, but saving the crop doesn't come cheap. LoBue runs one wind machine for every 10 acres and has to employ a crew to operate them.

“We're very diligent, we run the wind and water all night,” LoBue said, “but we're spending thousands of dollars to protect these crops.”

And farmers are on the hook for a fifth cold night: a freeze warning remains in effect until 10 a.m. Tuesday for central California.

Pickers may lose jobs

In Southern California, where strong winds helped keep some crops out of danger by keeping the cold from settling, farmers said any damage would negatively impact workers and consumers.

“We have between 170 to 200 employees and if we can't pick we have to lay off our picking crews,” said John Gless, a third-generation Riverside-based grower.

And if there's less fruit to pick, Gless said prices will go up.

Temperatures in downtown Los Angeles fell to 34 degrees, breaking the previous record of 36 degrees set on Jan. 14, 2007.