Gov. Rick Scott is asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to move quickly to get disaster-relief funding into the hands of Florida citrus growers, as it may be another three months before farmers can start to apply for the money.
In a letter Tuesday, Scott also asked Perdue to “customize federal aid for Florida citrus growers” to meet their needs. “Many growers, both large and small, in Florida are awaiting details on the USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s) plan to distribute funding,” Scott wrote.
On Friday, Perdue announced that a program to distribute $2.36 billion to farmers in Florida and other areas would be running by July 16. The agriculture aid is part of a $90 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The package is directed towards victims of hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria and wildfires in California.
Florida’s agriculture industry suffered an estimated $2.5 billion in losses from Irma, with the citrus industry accounting for at least $761 million of those damages.
Perdue’s announcement Friday said distribution information will come “at a later date.” His office also noted, in part, that compensation will be determined by producers’ individual losses rather than by average losses in particular areas and that people receiving aid obtain future crop insurance.
Scott’s letter followed a request by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to “avoid arbitrary limitations on disaster relief so we can get Florida’s farms, groves, and nurseries back to full operation” as soon as possible. “USDA is right to incentivize personal responsibility through the purchase of crop insurance, however some crop policies work better than others,” Rubio wrote. “USDA should not punish citrus growers and others who understandably forgo purchasing higher levels of coverage of a poor insurance product.”
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