USDA Approves Florida Disaster Designation Application for Counties Affected by January Freeze

(The Center Square) – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Florida’s request for disaster designation for 17 counties and 10 contiguous counties affected by freezing temperatures that affected the state’s farming community in during the last week of January.

“With the approval of our application for disaster declaration, Florida farmers have resources available to them as they continue their recovery efforts from recent freezing temperatures,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.

“This disaster declaration will provide further recovery assistance to our hard-working agricultural producers who are impacted by freezing temperatures,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “The Division will continue to identify all resources available to affected farmers and ensure they have access to all programs that will help them recover.”

A USDA disaster declaration allows producers and farmers to receive assistance from the Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans. Those operating in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a USDA disaster declaration to apply.

Florida growers were hit with sub-freezing temperatures Jan. 28-30. In February, Florida was expected to produce the smallest batch of its flagship crop – oranges – since World War II.

Coupled with sub-freezing temperatures and a lingering disease infecting citrus fruits, Florida citrus growers have been battling on two fronts. As the state and industry worked to find a solution, citrus growers asked Americans to help them by buying citrus from Florida.

According to a March 11 Nielsen retail reportit looks like they did just that.

For the 4-week period ending Feb. 26, average year-over-year gallon sales of NFC orange juice increased 4.3% from 2019-20; gallon sales for the season beginning in October 2021 were up 11.2% from 2019-20, according to Nielsen.

Additionally, e-commerce results have reached more than $45.7 million in attributed Florida orange juice sales since July 1, said Steve Johnson, chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Florida Department. of Citrus. “Our $30 million goal is long in the rearview mirror.”

He told Florida citrus growers, “As Thomas Edison said, ‘Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realize how close to success they were when they gave up. .’ We are not those people.

Under USDA approval, those affected by the freeze can apply for USDA assistance in 17 major counties: Broward, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee, Martin, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk Counties, St. Lucie and Sarasota.

Those in 10 contiguous counties are also eligible for UDSA assistance: Brevard, Charlotte, Lake, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas and Sumter.

Four programs are available under the Approved Disaster Declaration.

  • The Uninsured Agricultural Disaster Assistance program provides financial assistance to growers of uninsurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occurs due to natural disasters.
  • The Tree Assistance Program provides financial assistance to qualified arborists and nurserymen to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, shrubs and vines damaged by natural disasters.
  • Emergency agricultural loans are available based on percentage of crop loss.
  • The Livestock Indemnity Program provides payments equal to 75% of the average fair market value of lost livestock.

Applicants in eligible counties are encouraged to contact their local agricultural service agency office to apply.

DeSantis requested USDA assistance on February 7. He also issued an executive order directing state agencies to respond to the emergency and lifted several restrictions to more easily transport emergency equipment, supplies, personnel, or agricultural foodstuffs and citrus fruits.

Those affected by the freeze were also encouraged to complete a damage survey to determine what help they might receive.

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