Disaster Assistance Addressed at Florida Ag Conference

Jim Rogers Agriculture, Florida

How the government provides support to growers after disasters remains a challenge. Disaster assistance was one of the topics discussed at the recent Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference held at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

Disaster Assistance

Agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture are struggling with the best approach to help growers after events like hurricanes strike. Should there be a standing program always in place and funded for disasters, or is the ad hoc approach of addressing each event the best method? There are varying opinions on this, and disaster assistance will be debated in the next farm bill.

Ultimately, the goal is to assess the damage caused by a disaster and to get aid to growers more quickly after an event. Oftentimes, it is more than a year before affected growers receive relief funds.

At the conference, Christa Court, an economist with UF/IFAS, and Xiaohui (Sherry) Qiao, a postdoctoral research associate, presented their work on fine-tuning and speeding up damage assessments after a disaster.

Disaster Assistance
Citrus leaves damaged by freeze
(Photo by Mongi Zekri, UF/IFAS)

The programs they are developing use many data points and algorithms to map weather impacts in correlation to where crops are grown in the state. For example, Court showed a map where a hard freeze in late January hit very specific regions of South Florida. Citrus growers in those areas suffered significant damage, while others not so far away saw less impact. The same mapping can be done with hurricanes to track wind speed and rainfall totals.

Court said the goal is to create a system that is much more consistent, uniform and faster to assess damage after disaster events.

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About the Author

Frank Giles

Editor-in-Chief, AgNet Media Publications

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