Lawmakers sign off on money for citrus farmers

By News Service of Florida

Gov. Rick Scott said the state will “soon” begin accepting applications from citrus farmers whose crops and groves were damaged by Hurricane Irma, after the Joint Legislative Budget Commission on Thursday accepted $357 million in federal funding for the industry.

“It's great that the LBC approved this funding today,” Scott tweeted. “We look forward to continuing to work with @freshfromFL and accepting applications from growers soon.”

The state Division of Emergency Management will administer the funding, which is part of $2.36 billion appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 2017 disaster relief.

With an initial estimate of $761 million in damages from Irma to the state’s citrus industry, Florida was the only state to get a block grant specific to an industry as part of the “2017 Wildfires and Hurricane Indemnity Program.”

The so-called WHIP program will compensate farmers in Florida and other states for expenses related to losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and various wildfires last year.

Citrus growers who receive money through the program can use it for such things as buying crop insurance and replacing damaged and destroyed trees if they had at least 15 percent fruit loss in the past season.

Citrus officials have projected that many South Florida growers suffered more than 70 percent losses from Irma.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission is made up of House and Senate members and has the authority to make mid-year budget adjustments.

As part of the money accepted Thursday, $17 million is expected to cover administrative costs of the block grant program.

News Service of Florida