Farmers picking citrus ahead of Deep South freeze

With two freezing nights ahead, Louisiana citrus farmers could lose any fruit they can’t pick in time.

In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, Ben Becnel Jr. estimates that Ben & Ben Becnel Inc. has about 5,000 bushels of fruit on the trees, mostly satsumas and navel oranges.

He says some varieties will be OK if it doesn’t get below 25 degrees for too long. But he says it will be close — some forecasters expect the temperature to hit 22.

Becnel says he and his 10 workers should be able to get 1,000 bushels into boxes over the next two days.

Citrus picking is done by hand, from the ground or low ladders to reach the tops of 10- to 12-foot trees.

Becnel says, “We’re scrambling right now.”

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