- The Florida Department of Agriculture has launched a cost-share assistance program to support agricultural producers affected by Hurricane Idalia, with a focus on repairing or replacing damaged irrigation systems.
- The financial assistance cap for the program has been raised from $50,000 to $150,000, and eligible projects will receive a reimbursement rate of 75 percent.
- As part of the program, producers must commit to a five-year contract to ensure long-term water and nutrient conservation benefits.
The Florida Department of Agriculture on Thursday launched a cost-share assistance program aimed at providing support to agricultural producers who were impacted by Hurricane Idalia, largely focusing on the repair or replacement of damaged irrigation systems.
Overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy, the agency is raising the financial assistance cap from $50,000 to $150,000.
Components of the program include a focus on existing irrigation systems and a reimbursement rate of 75 percent for eligible projects, practices, and equipment, contingent on a commitment of a five-year contract by the producer to ensure long-term water and nutrient conservation benefits over the irrigation system’s twenty-year lifespan.
“Hurricane Idalia caused widespread crop and livestock losses and severe damage to agricultural infrastructure,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson on Thursday. “This innovative cost-share program will work to support our hardest-hit growers who lost much of their 2023 crop and are now looking for ways to repair or replace hundreds of irrigation systems ahead of the next growing season. While this targeted program will not be able to support every impacted agricultural producer, it is another important recovery resource.”
Eligibility for the program is conditional upon operating within severely impacted counties, enrolling in applicable FDACS best management practices programs, complying with state and federal regulations (including water use permits for pivot locations), and demonstrating a commitment to minimal tillage and conservation-based practices.
Qualified projects and equipment encompass a wide range of enhancements, from pump bowl upgrades to automation systems and weather stations. Initially, FDACS will utilize allocated funds for cost-sharing, but the department is seeking additional funding avenues to assist more producers, considering the substantial cost of equipping irrigation systems with precision agriculture technology.
“I will continue working with local, state, and federal partners to ensure that impacted producers have access to the recovery resources they deserve,” continued Simpson.
As of last week, the total estimated insured losses following Hurricane Idalia’s landfall last month have amounted to $178.7 million, with varying percentages of claims closed across different lines of business.
In total, there have been 19,324 claims reported. Among them, 30.1 percent have been closed, with 1,645 claims having open payments and 11,861 open claims without payment. Residential property claims are most frequent, with 13,289 reported claims, while homeowners’ claims stand at 9,007. Closure rates vary by category, with homeowners having a closure rate of 32.8 percent, while private flood claims have a lower rate of 3.9 percent.