Washington, D.C. – Prior to supporting the U.S. Senate’s passage tonight of the disaster relief package previously passed by the U.S. House, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the package’s lack of additional disaster relief for Florida’s citrus producers, whose crops were decimated by Hurricane Irma.
The full speech can be watched here. A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
October 23, 2017
RUBIO: The amendment that [Nelson] just made that we’ve been working to get included in what’s before the Senate obviously deals with agriculture writ large, and he’s described some of the different industries in Florida that have been hurt in agriculture, some of the crops in Florida that were impacted by the storm. The reason why I want to focus my attention on citrus is not that we don’t care about the other nurseries that were badly damaged along with a number of the other industries. But citrus is in a unique and precarious place, and I want to describe that for a moment in terms of people that may not be as familiar with it as those of us who live with it in Florida and see it all the time.
First, I would say one of the signature issues of this campaign and of politics today is the desire to make more and produce more in the United States. The idea that somehow, because of these changes in our global economy, that we have lost significant industries and jobs to other countries. We talk about that primarily in manufacturing, but we also talk about it in technology and things of this nature. I don’t think we should leave agriculture out of that conversation. And if we want there to be agriculture in the United States, then we have to deal with each of those crops and the unique challenges that they face, and we most certainly want to have agriculture in the United States…
I hope very much that in November we’re going to be here next month, we’re going to pass a new thing, and it’s going to have this money in there to help them. That would be fantastic. But we all know how this place works, and I just don’t know why we couldn’t do it now. Do we want to truly keep American businesses in America? This is a great example of an opportunity to do it. It’s not an industry that benefits from anything extraordinary from the government. They literally are on the verge of going away, unless we help them sooner rather than later.
You have the entire Florida delegation in the House in favor of it, and they couldn’t get it in the House bill. You have both senators here for it, it can’t be part of this year because if we change it and go back we’re going to lose time. No one can tell you why it’s not in there, no one can tell you they are against it being in there, but it’s not in there. So you sometimes begin to wonder, I guess you start to understand, why people look at this process and just shake their head.
So unfortunately it looks like that’s been foreclosed and obviously this thing will move forward. Senator Nelson just made that motion, and it was objected to, so it won’t be part of this package. But I just hope we think about those men and women, these families that own these groves—how do you explain this to them? And what happens if they go away? What happens if we lose this critical industry? It won’t just hurt Florida. I think it hurts the country, and I think it sets a precedent for other crops that might be threatened likewise in the future.
So I hope this can be reversed and I’m certainly hopeful that we’ll deal with it in November. But if we don’t, I just want everyone to understand what it means. This is not hyperbole. This industry is in a lot of trouble. And I’m not telling you that the amount of money we are asking for alone will save them. But without it, sooner rather than later, I fear we will lose not just Florida citrus, but I fear we’ll lose something that’s a key part of the state’s heritage and a key crop for the country. And we will depend more than ever on foreign imports to feed our people with this crop.
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