Grower Discusses Hurricane Relief Funds

Ernie Neffhurricane

Vic Story

Vic Story was one of hundreds of growers who attended Florida Citrus Mutual-sponsored meetings in early July describing how Hurricane Irma relief funding will work.

“We got hit pretty hard in places last year, and we didn’t pick as much fruit as we thought we were going to, especially earlies (early-season oranges),” Story says. “And so, we can use some help to make up for those losses. We got hit to varying degrees, especially down south and in Okeechobee County and Hardee County. Polk wasn’t so bad.” Story also grows citrus in Collier and Hendry counties.

He has been trying to take good care of his trees and replant where necessary since Irma, he says. “So we could use some help to make that happen.”

Story says many growers spent much money on grove inputs before Irma hit in September 2017. His company has a long track record with its lenders, who have worked with him to finance grove practices since the storm. “But I know there’s a lot of people that it’s been hard to put all the inputs in,” he adds. He notes that is especially difficult because production costs are substantially higher now than they were when hurricanes hit the Citrus Belt hard in 2004. “We’re spending a lot more money on these groves,” he says. “And if you don’t, you’re not going to stay in business.”

He attended the meeting to learn the mechanics of filing for federal relief. “We need to get some money to carry out the rest of this season,” he says. “We’re still five months away from picking any volume of fruit.”

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large