Florida Citrus Mutual’s crop estimate luncheon on Oct. 12 included the live announcement of the citrus crop forecast. But the focus of the event was on resources growers can tap into for assistance after Hurricane Ian. Speakers from various agencies shared information that can aid grower recovery efforts.
“After the storm, we knew whatever number (for the citrus crop estimate) USDA came out with would be irrelevant other than setting a benchmark where we thought this season might have been without the hurricane,” said Matt Joyner, executive vice president/chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual. “We knew this meeting needed to provide growers with hurricane recovery resources, so that’s what we shifted to.”
More than 300 growers turned out for the luncheon, which Joyner noted is a hopeful sign.
“Ian was so unfortunate for this industry,” he said. “We have taken our share of licks in recent years, but we were beginning to see the pieces fall into place for us to start to rebuild, whether it be research therapies or other things. We didn’t need this setback from Ian. But we are resilient, and the great turnout of growers illustrates we are committed to this industry.”
Following are some of the resources shared with growers during the luncheon.
TREE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TAP)
This U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) program can assist growers who have lost trees due to the hurricane. Key takeaways are:
- You must demonstrate 18% normal mortality to qualify for replacement trees or rehabilitation.
- You have 90 days to apply for TAP when damage become apparent.
- You cannot start work on damaged trees until approved for the program. NOTE: Local USDA representatives are applying for a waiver to this rule.
- If you have used TAP before and are in the system, you will get approved quickly, when funding is granted. If you have not participated, an environmental inspection is required. USDA is bringing additional inspectors to expedite the process.
- Get more information on TAP here
- Find your FSA county office here.
EMERGENCY CONSERVATION PROGRAM (ECP)
This USDA Farm Service Agency program assists with debris removal, fence repairs and other clean-up activities. Key takeaways include:
- Funding for this program has not yet been approved but has been applied for.
- You will need an onsite inspection before funds are approved.
- Provide as much information as you can about the nature of work needed under this program.
- Get more information on ECP here.
- Find your FSA county office here.
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY INCENTIVES PROGRAM (EQIP) DISASTER PROGRAM
This program from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
will address resource needs like irrigation, grazing and wildlife habitat systems. It is designed to address immediate needs like tree and debris removal, fence repair, and cleaning ditches and canals to clear the way for conservation practices to be completed.
Key takeaways are:
- Funding for this program is not yet set, but you should contact NRCS to report damages and needs.
- Take photos and document what damage you need assistance in cleaning up.
- Don’t forget the regular EQIP program, which can provide cost-share dollars for things like irrigation improvements and other land improvement and conservation measures.
- Individual protective covers (or citrus tree bags) is a new practice under EQIP.
- Contact the NRCS state office at 352-338-9500.
IMPORTANT NOTE: All growers impacted by Hurricane Ian should put their names on the USDA hurricane register. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-508-8364.
UF/IFAS has many resources available to growers to help them with the rehabilitation of trees damaged by the hurricane.
FEMA can aid growers who may have damage to their property and homes. The programs the agency offers are aimed at jumpstarting recovery. FEMA can provide temporary lodging and funds for home repair. It also can provide for disaster-related expenses such as dental, medical, childcare, legal and unemployment. To date, the federal government has approved more than $268 million in funds for Hurricane Ian relief. Apply for FEMA assistance here.
When there is a disaster declaration by the President, the SBA can help homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profits with low-interest loans. These loans are available for both physical damage and economic injury. Get more information on SBA loans here.
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