While President Donald Trump and Congress focus on a tax plan that the president calls “a great Christmas gift” for the country, it appears Florida’s agriculture industry is about to get a gift of its own from Washington — a relief package designed to help the state’s agricultural community still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in September
Congress had failed to include aid for Florida’s farmers and growers in two previous hurricane relief bills.
A message on Twitter from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan Monday evening suggested the third time could be the charm for Florida.
“Great news for FL: just got out of a meeting with House leaders — significant disaster relief is on the way!” Buchanan tweeted Monday evening.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam echoed the encouraging news in a press release issued Tuesday morning, saying the proposed $81 billion disaster spending bill that will be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, includes $2.6 billion for Florida for agricultural assistance.
“Florida’s farmers, ranchers and growers suffered unprecedented damage from Hurricane Irma, and today’s announcement of proposed emergency funding for Florida agriculture is the first bit of good news we’ve heard in months,” Putnam said.
The state’s agriculture industry sustained an estimated $2.5 billion dollars in damage when Hurricane Irma plowed across the Florida Keys and up the state’s west coast back in June. Nearly a third of that damage was caused to citrus.
Irma’s strong winds ripped fruit from trees leaving much of this year’s crop of citrus decaying on the ground. In addition, the storm’s heavy rains left many groves flood, damaging or destroying trees.
Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the House appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, helped to secure the disaster relief for the state.
“This has been a trying time for all of the state’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who have been working tirelessly for months to recover from the devastation caused by Irma throughout Florida’s Heartland,” Rooney said. “I am glad to say we finally cleared the first major hurdle by securing this funding in the latest disaster supplemental bill.”
Gov. Rick Scott has been busy working the phones in recent days to help secure the hurricane relief package for Florida. Scott spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan Monday afternoon.
“I want to thank Representative Rooney, Governor Rick Scott and the entire Florida congressional delegation for working tirelessly to get Florida agriculture the relief it desperately needs,” Putnam added. “I will continue to work with leaders in Washington to make sure that this funding becomes a reality so Florida’s agriculture industry can continue to do what it does best: feed our state, our country and the world.”