CHICAGO -- Orange groves in Florida, the world's biggest grower after Brazil, escaped cold weather damage overnight as frigid air set records across the Midwest.
The coldest spots in Florida citrus groves were near freezing, and oranges aren't damaged unless temperatures are below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2.2 Celsius) for a few hours, said Dale Mohler, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. Cattle futures extended gains to a record Tuesday as livestock slaughter will slow because it's harder to transport animals in the snow.
Manatee County farms reported no damage to their oranges.
Shane Russ, co-owner of Russ Citrus Groves in Myakka City, said his oranges fared well despite the frigid temperatures.
"The wind was up it really didn't get cold enough for us," he said.
And oranges at SMR Farms in Bradenton also survived the cold.
"The lowest the temperature got was 35 so we didn't have any problems last night," said Steve John, citrus production manager at SMR Farms. "We set up everything to run water for freeze protection but we didn't have to turn the water on because it didn't get cold enough,"
The frigid weather strangled transportation routes around the country including interstate highways, airlines and rails. It also led to a surge in energy demand that pushed power in Texas to more than $5,000 a megawatt-hour for the first time and caused disruptions at oil refineries in Tennessee and Illinois. Orange juice futures jumped 2.8 percent Monday on speculation cold would damage citrus groves in Florida.
"The bullet missed them," Mohler said. "I don't think
this even damaged the vegetable crops, tomatoes and strawberries, which are more susceptible."
Orange juice futures declined 1 percent to $1.421 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York by 8:07 a.m. Futures closed Monday at $1.436, for a 30 percent gain in the past year.
The Standard & Poor's GSCI Agriculture Index of eight crops fell 0.1 percent to 351.9 in New York. The S&P gauge of 24 commodities climbed 0.4 percent. Cattle futures reached $1.37225 a pound, the highest since Chicago trading began in 1964.
Wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade fell 0.4 percent to $6.035 a bushel after closing unchanged Monday.
Most wheat in the southern Great Plains and Midwest has about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow cover that can help to protect the dormant crops, Kyle Tapley, a senior agricultural meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said in a telephone interview. About 62 percent of the plants were in good or excellent condition at the end of November, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cattle prices climbed 1.8 percent in 2013, the fifth straight annual gain. Beef output in the U.S., the world's biggest producer, may slump 5.7 percent this year to the lowest since 1993, the USDA has projected.
Animals will need to use more energy to stay warm in cold weather, reducing weight increases and potentially limiting beef supplies, Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale in McHenry, Illinois, said in a telephone interview. Meatpackers processed 15 percent fewer cattle Monday and 26 percent fewer hogs than a week earlier, USDA data showed.
This "sort of weather is always an issue for livestock," Sterling Smith, a futures specialist at Citigroup Inc. in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. "You can't move hogs in weather like this. They will freeze."
Orange-juice futures in New York jumped 19 percent in 2013 as a crop disease threatened U.S. production.
-- Herald staff writer Sabrina Rocco contributed to this report. Brian K. Sullivan in Boston, Jeff Wilson in Chicago and Luzi Ann Javier and Marvin G. Perez in New York, contributed to this report.