- A group of Florida lawmakers, including Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, introduced the Block Grant Assistance Act to provide relief to agriculture producers affected by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
- Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson expressed his support for the measure.
- The legislation aims to provide relief to agriculture producers affected by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole by giving the U.S. agriculture secretary the authority to provide block grants to Florida.
- Simpson praised the bill for its potential to provide much-needed relief to Florida’s agriculture industry, which has been struggling since the hurricanes struck Florida.
A consortium of Florida lawmakers including U.S. Senator Rick Scott introduced the Block Grant Assistance Act, which aims to provide relief to agriculture producers affected by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The measure has drawn the praise of leaders within the state Capitol, including Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson.
The bill would give the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture the authority to provide block grants to the state of Florida to help farmers affected by hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Sen. Marco Rubio co-sponsored the legislation, and Reps Scott Franklin and Debbie Wasserman Schultz co-led the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill has received support from organizations such as the Florida Citrus Mutual and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.
Block grants are a type of financial assistance provided by governments to support, among other uses, agricultural programs and initiatives. The grants are designed to give states or local governments more control over how the funds are used and to help support farmers.
Simpson expressed his support for the legislation on Monday, praising the bill for its potential to provide relief to Florida’s agriculture industry, which has been struggling since the hurricanes made landfall over the state.
“Florida’s agriculture community suffered more than a billion dollars in damage this past hurricane season, and the impacts are still being felt by producers today,” he said. “I applaud Representative Scott Franklin, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and the entire Florida congressional delegation for prioritizing this bill to give the support and relief needed for the industry to recover from the devastating storms and allow Florida to continue to provide the safest, most abundant, and affordable food supply in the nation – and the world.”
According to a report published by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florida agriculture suffered more than $1.03 billion in damages from Hurricane Ian, with citrus, vegetable, and horticultural growers taking the biggest hit. The report states $247 million in citrus damages, $130.2 million in row crops, $204.6 million in vegetables and melons, $137.7 million in non-citrus fruits and tree nuts, and $119.8 million in livestock and animal products. 62 percent of the agricultural land used for grazing was also affected by the hurricane.
Moreover, Florida’s citrus industry is predicted to suffer a fifty percent drop in production compared to 2022, according to a Florida Department of Citrus (FDoC) analysis. The state agency attributes the predicted downturn to the storms, as wel as recurring deep freezes.
FDoC expects 18 million boxes of oranges to be produced in Fiscal Year 2022-23 — a 56 percent decline compared to the year prior, 1.5 million boxes of grapefruits, a 55 percent decline, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines, which amounts to a 33 percent drop in production. Industry analysts state that Florida processors will be forced to rely on imports and domestic receipts to meet the current market demand.
Mike Joyner, President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, echoed the concern, stating that the pair of hurricanes had a “devastating impact on the Florida agricultural industry,” with more than 90 percent of all Florida citrus production impacted by the tropical storms in 2022, totaling 375,302 acres.
The losses are expected to cost the industry between $416 million and $675 million. Florida citrus generates $6.8 billion in annual revenue and supports 33,000 jobs.