President Donald Trump signed a $400 billion budget deal Friday that was passed by Congress in the early morning hours ending a partial shutdown of the federal government. the agreement adds $89 billion in long-awaited disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
Passage of the budget plan was welcomed news for Florida’s agriculture industry which sustained heavy losses as the result of Hurricane Irma in September. The measure includes more than $2.3 billion for agricultural assistance.
“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,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Without this emergency assistance, Florida agriculture cannot fully recover from the unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Irma.”
“Today, Congress finally provided the relief we were seeking for Florida families and businesses,” added Gov. Rick Scott. “The funding provided today will help the recovery of our state’s iconic citrus industry, better prepare our communities as they continue to welcome families displaced by Hurricane Maria and aid in Puerto Rico’s recovery.”
Florida agriculture suffered an estimated loss of more than $2.5 billion in damages as the result of Irma, which made landfall twice in Florida–in the Keys and the Naples area–and moved up the state’s west coast causing destruction across much of the state.
The biggest impact was felt by citrus farmers who sustained an estimated $760 million dollars in losses. Irma hit just weeks before this year’s citrus crop was to be harvested. Her winds and rains ripped fruit from the trees and left citrus groves flooded.
After years of declining yields, growers were expecting a rebound in this year’s harvest.
Now, they are facing the reality that this year’s crop could be the lowest in 75 years.
Putnam said Irma’s path across the Keys and up the state’s west coast could not have been “more lethal” to Florida agriculture. In addition to the citrus crop, the storm inflicted damage to the lobster and stone crab industries in the Keys, as well as to vegetable, sugar cane, nurseries, the cattle and dairy farmers and the poinsettia industry.
In weeks and months following Hurricane Irma, Commissioner Putnam twice traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the agricultural damage and to request federal assistance with Florida’s congressional delegation.
“Florida and Puerto Rico have been in dire need of disaster relief funding, and I am proud that our work on the Senate Appropriations Committee has resulted in virtually all of our funding needs being met,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio following the passage of the spending plan. “Among them is relief for Florida’s citrus growers, school repairs and funding to accommodate an increase in enrolled students, the expedited completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, vital beach renourishment, and repair of damaged Everglades infrastructure.
“I want to thank Governor Rick Scott and the members of Florida’s congressional delegation that supported this effort and fought for Florida agriculture over the last days, weeks and months,” Putnam added.
The estimated total economic agricultural damages from Irma as estimated by the state Agriculture Department was $2,558,598,303. The following is a breakdown of the losses:
- Citrus: $760,816,600
- Beef Cattle: $237,476,562
- Dairy: $11,811,695
- Aquaculture: $36,850,000
- Fruits and Vegetables (excluding citrus): $180,193,096
- Greenhouse, Nursery, and Floriculture: $624,819,895
- Sugar: $382,603,397
- Field crops: $62,747,058
- Forestry: $261,280,000