Skies Open Up for Florida Farmers Waiting on Disaster Relief
Florida’s farming industry woke up on a positive note to hear members of the U.S. House and Senate have finally approved an agriculture disaster relief package that will send billions to growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The package — passed overnight as part of the massive federal budget deal — provides a total of $3.6 billion to the USDA, $2.36 billion of which will be used to make direct payments to Florida producers who’ve suffered hurricane-related crop losses last year.
The share going to the citrus sector, which was hit particularly hard by the storm, is expected to be $760 million.
“We cannot thank the Florida delegation enough for their bi-partisan support of this measure to get citrus growers back on their feet after a catastrophic blow from Hurricane Irma,” stated Mike Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Growers and the communities and families that rely on citrus are thankful to say the least.”
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who back in early October put a $2.5 billion price tag on the state’s farming losses to Irma, echoed Sparks’ sentiment. “The passage of this spending bill is a critical first step to finally getting Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and growers long-awaited and desperately needed relief. Without this emergency assistance, Florida agriculture cannot fully recover from the unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Irma.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill worked into the early morning hours before submitting final votes on the budget deal, putting an end to a short-lived government shutdown. According to the White House, the President signed off on the legislation shortly thereafter.