Several members of Congress from Florida recently introduced the Restore Agricultural Investment, Stability and Expansion (RAISE) Act of 2023. The act would provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with standing authority to help American growers recover after natural disasters by issuing block grants. Supporters said the bill better positions the measure to reach President Joe Biden’s desk and become law through the upcoming farm bill that Congress is expected to consider.
Representatives Scott Franklin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Darren Soto and Kat Cammack introduced the bill.
“After extreme hurricane seasons like the one Florida experienced last year, growers cannot afford to navigate bureaucratic obstacles to get the help they need,” said Franklin. “I’m pleased that earlier this month the House unanimously passed our bill to give the USDA block grant authority to expedite disaster relief for agricultural producers still recovering from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. This commonsense initiative would make this authority permanent, ensuring the federal government can respond as quickly as possible to future emergencies.”
“From timber to food on our tabletops, the federal government needs every tool at hand to help farmers recover from natural disasters,” said Wasserman Schultz.
“When extreme weather threatens our crops, as is often the case in the Sunshine State, we must be prepared to help our farmers recover and continue the important work of feeding our nation,” Cammack said.
“In Central Florida, our farmers, ranchers and growers have struggled after devastating hurricanes,” saidSoto. “As these natural disasters get stronger, we must work to ensure that they have the resources to recover, maintain their livelihoods and keep feeding America.”
More than 90% of all Florida citrus production was impacted by hurricanes in 2022. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services expects losses to cost the industry as much as $675 million.
In 2018, Congress gave USDA the authority to issue block grants to states to assist with recovery efforts after 2017’s Hurricane Irma. In conjunction with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant (CRBG) Program was created to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The CRBG program was widely successful in helping spur recovery for the Florida citrus industry.
This June, the House passed H.R. 662 — the Block Grants Assistance Act — led by Franklin and Wasserman Schultz. That bill would allow USDA to issue block grants from the disaster funding that Congress passed in response to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. H.R. 662 received unanimous support on the House floor.
The RAISE Act would give the USDA permanent block grant authority to direct emergency relief dollars as quickly as possible so high value crops like citrus can recover after future natural disasters. The full text of this legislation can be found here.
Source: Rep. Scott Franklin
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