Cold weather and no-fly zone could hurt crops

PAHOKEE, Fla. - The president's visit - in addition to the cold weather - has put millions of dollars of crops on the line in Western Palm Beach County.

Because its going to be so cold this weekend, farmers in Pahokee will have to use their helicopters to fly over their crops to keep them warm.

Farmers and officials have been negotiating with the White House all day for the right to fly.

There are thousands of acres of sweet corn and green beans in Pahokee, worth tens of millions of dollars to the local economy.

"We're probably six, seven days off of harvest right now," said Pope Farms owner Lewis Pope.

It's the worst possible time for a deep freeze. Temperatures could hover in the thirties this weekend.

Frozen corn can't sell. And farmers can't stop the corn from freezing unless they can use low-flying helicopters to push warm air down over their fields.

But the president's no-fly zone means nothing can be in the air.

When this got on the radar of public officials, they got on the horn to the White House.

"We really would have turned up the heat. They were immediately accessible. We'll be able to work out something," said Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser.

Late Friday night, the Secret Service offered a deal. Farmers can fly their choppers.

But every time one has to lift off, a direct phone call has to be made to the White House.

"The economic impact on this community would have been devastating," said Sasser. "It still could be if we lose any of these crops to a freeze."

The rain is also causing a problem.

They need crop dusters to keep bugs away.

At this point, the Secret Service has not given permission for crop dusters to be in the air. But they're hoping that by morning, they'll have that permission.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments