On December 5, Mike Sparks, Florida Citrus Mutual executive vice president and CEO, sent the following message to the Florida citrus industry:
Since Hurricane Irma devastated Florida citrus in September, Commissioner Adam Putnam, Governor Rick Scott, Florida Congressional/Senate leaders, Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida citrus growers and the industry have been working tirelessly in Washington, D.C. to obtain a federal relief/rebuild package. Based on assurances from leadership, we expect Congress will include $1.5 billion for a Texas and Florida agriculture package in the Continuing Resolution to fund the government, December 22.
The timing is right for Mutual’s membership to step up and let our elected officials know how important the relief/rebuild package is to the future of our industry. Please see attached list of House and Senate contacts. CALL OR EMAIL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON AND BOTH U.S. SENATORS to say thank you for their support and ask them to keep fighting for Florida citrus. Feel free to contact as many officials on the list as you feel comfortable, as well as those who have not committed. Also, if you have friends, colleagues or business associates who have contacts with Florida or other states’ Congressional offices, please ask them to make a call on Florida citrus’ behalf.
I would suggest you include any or all of the following points:
- Name, location and quick history of your business
- For the past decade Florida citrus has been fighting HLB, a bacterial disease that kills trees quickly. The disease and the vector are not native to the United States. Citrus production has gone down more than 70% while the cost to grow citrus has nearly tripled. Consequently, for the last 10 years, groves have not been sufficiently profitable. To continue to produce citrus, growers have utilized all reserves, there are no retained earnings and loans have been maxed out.
- Hurricane Irma ruined hope that the 2017-18 season would mark a modest rebound. The hurricane brought 110 mph winds and excessive rain which resulted in an estimated 60% crop loss.
- Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pegged a preliminary citrus damage estimate at $760 million. The number will grow significantly as long-term effects slowly emerge. It will take years to truly understand the destruction of Hurricane Irma.
- The damage in the wake of Hurricane Irma has exposed major flaws in the federal crop insurance program for citrus, which is administered by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency. Citrus crop insurance is a deficient safety net and does not provide adequate indemnity payments. Widespread catastrophic damage occurred across the state and the RMA’s insurance program does not provide growers with the capital they need to rebuild.
- We need a relief/rebuild package, or a way of life for local communities and a huge economic engine for the state of Florida will disappear.
Again, now is the time to make a grassroots push for the relief/rebuild package; call or send an email as soon as possible!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
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