Citrus was a hot topic Thursday morning during the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee meeting in Tallahassee to discuss hurricane damage to Florida agriculture. Led by Chairperson Denise Grimsley, the committee heard from two sets of panelists as they explained the damage in their respective industries. The Florida Department of Citrus was represented by citrus grower Ellis Hunt in one of the panels.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is concerned about the state of the Florida citrus industry. He released an initial estimate of $760 million in hurricane damage to citrus. He realizes that the citrus industry took the hardest hit from Hurricane Irma, and many growers are still experiencing flooding and fruit drop in their groves. He encourages growers to look into Gov. Rick Scott’s loan program for relief funds (link).
Grimsley is ready to take action to provide relief for growers. “Obviously, financial resources are the biggest piece,” she said. This committee meeting was held in preparation for the 2018 legislative session. She said she and the committee will take in what they heard and see what they need to do in order to help Florida agriculture. “We want to do everything we can to make sure agriculture comes back stronger than ever,” Grimsley said.
Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, did not speak on behalf of the department, but sat in the audience and listened to the testimonies. In the end, she believes now more than ever that policymakers need to make a plan to provide Florida citrus with some sort of relief.
Shepp’s message to growers is: “Don’t stop.” She said that she, along with the rest of her department, is committed to help the Florida citrus growers who suffered and continue to suffer from Hurricane Irma. “There’s people out here fighting for you, so don’t stop,” she concluded.
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