Hurricane Relief Act Advances

Josh McGillhurricane, Legislative

The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture on May 11 reported favorably on a bill that would provide relief to Florida agriculture producers harmed by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in 2022. The Block Grant Assistance Act is a bill to ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can provide that relief. The bill will head to the U.S. House floor for a final vote.

Hurricane Ian decimated groves across Florida.

“The focus now shifts to the U.S. Senate, where we hope they will take this issue up quickly,” stated the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA).

In February, U.S. Representatives Scott Franklin and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, all from Florida, introduced the act.

“In December of last year, Congress appropriated $3.7 billion to address agricultural losses from hurricanes and other natural disasters,” said U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida. “However, to date, no citrus grower has received any of the agricultural disaster relief funds. This bill will allow the secretary of Agriculture to create a program within USDA to support specialty crops, including citrus, damaged by natural disasters. This bill would help our growers recover from Hurricane Ian by allowing the secretary to efficiently deploy the funds that have already been appropriated by Congress.”

Matt Joyner, Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) chief executive officer, reported that he and FCM President Glenn Beck met last week with members of Florida’s congressional delegation and USDA leaders in Washington regarding hurricane relief funding. He called the action by the House Agriculture Committee “the highlight of the week … We’re hopeful this legislation will be heard on the House floor in the next few weeks.”

In October last year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated total Florida citrus crop and tree losses from Hurricane Ian at from $417 million to $675 million.

Sources: FFVA and FCM

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