State of Florida requests USDA Disaster Declaration for agriculture industry

by | Sep 16, 2023



  • Gov. Ron DeSantis has formally requested disaster relief from the USDA to aid Florida’s farmers impacted by Hurricane Idalia, which caused significant damage to the state’s agriculture sector.
  • Hurricane Idalia hit Florida’s Big Bend region, where many farms and agriculture centers are located, with initial reports indicating major losses in the timber industry, cattle and dairy farms, poultry industry, peanut growers, and processing plants.
  • The disaster declaration request, if approved, will make affected areas eligible for federal aid programs, including low-interest emergency loans, grants, and technical assistance.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday formally requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for disaster relief to assist Florida’s farmers hit hard by Hurricane Idalia.

    The request follows the landfall of Hurricane Idalia over Florida’s Big Bend region, which houses a high concentration of farms and agriculture centers. Florida’s agriculture generates $7.3 billion annually and reports approximately 47,000 farms and ranches covering approximately 9.7 million acres of farmland.

    “Initial reports show significant impacts to the timber industry, cattle and dairy farms, the poultry industry, peanut growers, and processing plants,” wrote the governor in his request. “In addition to crop and livestock losses, there is catastrophic loss to infrastructure. Fencing, barns, and equipment have been destroyed or rendered useless. I ask that the USDA move quickly to review and respond to this request and approve all assistance programs available under the USDA and your federal counterparts.”

    When a disaster area is designated, it signifies that affected regions are now eligible for essential federal aid programs. This aid package includes low-interest emergency loans, grants, and technical assistance. The declaration process involves an assessment of the damage in collaboration with state and local authorities.

    The state of Florida has additionally allocated $5 million in the Emergency Bridge Loan Program specifically for agriculture and aquaculture small businesses. Eligible businesses can apply for loans up to $50,000, while agriculture and aquaculture small businesses can access loans of up to $100,000.

    DeSantis’ request comes two weeks after he sought federal aid for the state’s fishing industry from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. A federal fisheries disaster declaration is made under the authority of the Fishery Disasters Improvement Act and is granted when a fishery experiences a significant and unexpected decline in fish stocks or a natural disaster that affects the industry’s ability to catch and sell fish. The declaration allows for federal assistance to be provided to affected fishermen and fishing communities.

    “We understand particularly in this area fishing is very important,” said DeSantis. “We are going to request from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce a federal fisheries disaster to help our fisheries rebuild.”

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