Growers Hear About Hurricane Recovery Funding

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Mutual CEO Mike Sparks, left, talks to Mutual staffer Andrew Meadows following Monday’s meeting.

Approximately 120 growers attended a Monday night meeting in Lake Alfred to learn about eligibility and application requirements for federal relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Irma hit the Florida citrus industry hard in September 2017. The federal government only recently ironed out details of a citrus relief program for growers totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The meeting, like three others this week around the Florida Citrus Belt, was hosted by Florida Citrus Mutual. Mutual CEO Mike Sparks summarizes and comments on key points made by officials with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) and others.

“Growers can understand and actually see that there’s a program being finalized,” Sparks says. “They know that the applications can be submitted July 16.”

“It really gives the appearance that USDA, the Farm Service Agency, in each county is ready to roll up their sleeves and walk hand in hand with the growers,” Sparks adds. The FSA will administer Wildfires and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) funds. “That’s critically important, because once that documentation is in place, it’s an automatic next step to the block grant that’s going to be administered by the (Florida) Division of Emergency Management.”

“The WHIP program in total for the state of Florida for citrus probably will approximate $100 million,” Sparks says. “There is an additional $340 million … that can be secured by the block grant.”

Sparks says he believes most Florida citrus growers will receive some WHIP payment. The maximum payment per grower is $125,000, with the exception that growers getting 75 percent of adjusted gross income from agricultural pursuits may receive up to $900,000.

One FSA official Monday presented a hypothetical case in which a 50-acre grower would receive a WHIP payment of about $209,000, or a little over $4,000 per acre. Sparks says that example “got everybody’s attention” but that he thinks the average grower will receive “much less than that.”

Hear more from Sparks:

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large