Winter weather threatens Georgia blueberry, peach crops

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Winter weather threatens Georgia blueberry, peach crops

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HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/hshin@ajc.com
July 19, 2016 Jasper - Brian Maloof pops the blueberries into his mouth as he harvests fruits and vegetables at his farm in Jasper on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Brian Maloof carries the legacy of his famous politico father, Manuel, somewhat heavily and quietly. An EMT who saved dozens of lives over the years, Maloof had witnessed a spate of pediatric deaths and was ready for a career change when his father asked him to take over the family business, Manuel's Tavern, in 1999. Maloof bought a nine-acre farm in Jasper, where he cultivates tomatoes, squash, potatoes, green beans and other vegetables that he wants to use in the restaurant kitchen. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia fruit farmers face the potential loss of millions of dollars in crops as a late-winter freeze threatens the state, top agriculture officials said Tuesday. 

State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said blueberry and peach farmers in particular are at risk. 

“They’re telling me this morning that 60 percent of the rabbit-eye blueberries and then even some portions of the highbush could get pounded tonight,” Black said. 

Georgia leads the country in blueberry production. Most of central and north Georgia will be under a freeze warning from 11 p.m. Tuesday until 11 a.m. Wednesday. 

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McCall, R-Elberton, said peach farmers, too, are concerned. 

“Farmers north of Macon had been preparing a bumper crop and were almost naming their own prices,” McCall said. 

Meteorologist Brad Nitz with your early Tuesday evening weather forecast. www.accessatlanta.com

Now, those farmers could see fruit freeze overnight, while farmers south of Macon have struggled with not enough cool weather, he said. 

Black said it remains to be seen if the state’s Vidalia onion crop is impacted by the freeze. 

“Onions are a little more resilient,” he said. “I’m not ready to comment on that. We’ll wait and see.”

There’s not much that can be done to help farmers, Black said, except pray for warmer weather. 

“We’re going to be joining several groups, there are prayer meetings all over South Georgia,” he said. “We’ll be asking the Lord to protect us.”

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