Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday urged the legislative commission charged with granting spending authority to approve $340 million in federal funding to aid Florida’s hurting citrus growers.
Earlier this year, following Scott’s months of fighting for critical funding and support for the state’s citrus industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $340 million in federal funding to aid the industry’s recovery from Hurricane Irma. Now that a grant for this has been approved in an agreement between the USDA and the State of Florida, it will be considered by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission (LBC) Thursday.
The block grant for Florida citrus is part of a more than $2.3 billion federal package approved earlier this year.
Scott said in a written statement, “Florida’s iconic citrus industry is critical to our economy … I applaud USDA for authorizing this funding for Florida and for being a partner in our work to help growers. I look forward to the Legislature approving these important funds tomorrow so we can get this money to our growers. We will keep fighting for this important industry and the many families whose livelihoods depend on the success of Florida agriculture.”
Added Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, “Florida is synonymous with citrus, and we’ve worked tirelessly with the agriculture industry, Governor Scott, other elected leaders and government agencies to help our citrus industry recover from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage. Thanks to the hard work of so many, this much-needed piece of disaster assistance is finally on the way and will go a long way to help Florida’s citrus industry rebuild.”
Here are actions the governor has taken on behalf of the citrus industry since Hurricane Irma:
On Oct. 6, activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. This program provided interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm.
On Oct. 11, traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the Florida congressional delegation to discuss Hurricane Irma as well as possible relief efforts for Florida’s citrus industry.
On Oct. 11, met with Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture Congressman Mike Conaway, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Congressman Michael McCaul, and Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón.
On Oct 11, Nov. 13 and Nov. 17, spoke with White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney regarding federal disaster relief.
On Oct. 13, in response to the advocacy of Governor Scott, the USDA issued a natural disaster declaration for 19 Florida counties due to the damage the Florida citrus industry suffered during Hurricane Irma. This disaster declaration made farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to designated primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including FSA emergency loans.
On Nov. 2, announced his proposal of a more-than-$21 million investment in the Florida citrus industry as part of his 2018-2019 recommended budget.
On Dec. 15, spoke to House Speaker Paul Ryan urging immediate action to help Florida citrus growers.
On Dec. 19, spoke with Chairman John Hoeven of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies regarding Florida’s iconic citrus industry.
On Dec. 19, spoke with Congressman Vern Buchanan regarding citrus relief.
On Dec. 20, spoke with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue regarding Florida’s iconic citrus industry.
On Dec. 31, met with President Donald Trump regarding the need for federal aid for the recovery of Florida’s citrus industry.
On Jan. 3, sent a letter to the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations urging the Senate to immediately pass a significant Hurricane Irma and Maria disaster relief package. See the governor’s letter here.
On Jan. 24, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, California Governor Jerry Brown and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló issued a joint letter urging the U.S. Senate to improve and expeditiously pass supplemental disaster funding, and for Congress to send the bill to the president.
On Jan. 31, spoke with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell regarding disaster relief funding.
On Feb. 1, spoke with Ag Commissioner Putnam and Florida citrus leaders regarding federal disaster relief.
On March 16, signed the Securing Florida’s Future Budget, which invests more than $20 million in Florida’s citrus industry. The budget includes $8 million for citrus research to find solutions for citrus greening, $5 million to support Department of Citrus consumer awareness efforts to support the market for Florida citrus and orange juice, and $7.5 million for the Citrus Health Response Program, which helps ensure that growers are able to replant healthy citrus trees destroyed by Hurricane Irma, and helps minimize the spread of citrus greening.