The U.S. House and Senate has approved an agriculture disaster package that will send billions of dollars in relief to Florida growers hit by Hurricane Irma.
The package – passed as part of the federal budget deal – provides a total of US$3.6 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, US$2.36 billion of which will be used to make direct payments to Florida producers who’ve suffered hurricane-related crop losses last year.
The Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) said citrus’ share is expected to be US$760 million.
The bill now moves to the president.
“We cannot thank the Florida delegation enough for their bi-partisan support of this measure to get citrus growers back on their feet after a catastrophic blow from Hurricane Irma,” FCM CEO Michael W. Sparks said.
“Growers and the communities and families that rely on citrus are thankful to say the least. Livelihoods and a way of life are going to be saved because of this funding.
“Senators Nelson and Rubio were absolutely instrumental in the success of the relief package. On the House side Congressman Rooney, Ross and Diaz-Balart did yeoman’s work for us in addition to almost the entire Florida delegation. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Governor Rick Scott were with us every step of the way and we thank them as well.”
On Sept. 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state hitting Florida’s major citrus-producing regions with up to 120 mph winds. The hurricane blew fruit off the tree and caused widespread tree damage.
An FCM survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at more than 65% with some reports of 100% fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.
The Florida citrus industry creates a US$8.6 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 46,000 people, and covering about 450,000 acres.