Nikki Fried Calls for USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation for 17 Florida Counties

Last week, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried visited Lipman Farms in LaBelle, where she announced her request of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretarial Disaster Designation for 17 Florida counties impacted last month by Hurricane Ian.

The 17 counties include: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, and Seminole.

Her letter was addressed to Farm Services Administration State Executive Director Deborah Tannenbaum, and noted that while FDACS continues working with our partners as well as stakeholders on a full and complete assessment of damage and loss to the state’s agriculture industry, preliminary data have already determined that these counties meet the USDA required 30 percent production loss threshold of at least one crop, for Secretarial Disaster Designation eligibility.

Hurricane Ian covered more than 4 million acres of Florida farmland, damaging produce, fruit trees, nurseries, and livestock. Industries sustaining substantial losses include but are not limited to dairy, honey bees, horticulture, aquaculture, and other crops.

Agriculture is Florida’s second-largest economic driver with nearly $150 billion in economic impact and 47,500 farms supporting more than 2.4 million jobs.

Fried’s letter is below.

Dear Director Tannenbaum:

I write today asking that the Farm Service Agency request a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretarial Disaster Designation for the following 17 Florida counties impacted last month by Hurricane Ian: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, and Seminole. While the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) continues its full and complete assessment of damage and loss to the state’s agriculture industry, preliminary data support that these counties have met the required thirty percent production loss threshold.

The citrus industry alone accounts for the threshold in at least 11 of the counties and is expected to see measurable impacts on more than 300,000 acres of managed land across all 17, based on measured wind speeds when compared with previous hurricanes. In the 11 counties, initial estimates show that we will likely see up to ninety percent losses in cash receipts, dealing yet another blow to an already beleaguered industry. Working closely on the ground with our industry partners, we have seen fruit drop, leaf and limb damage, toppled trees, flooded fields, and anticipate damage in the form of root rot and unsalvageable trees resulting from standing water.

Additional agricultural industries sustaining substantial losses include but are not limited to dairy, honey bees, horticulture, aquaculture, and other crops.

As you know, a Secretarial Disaster Designation would provide much-needed federal resources for our devastated producers in these counties, many of whom have already reported nearly 100 percent crop losses. On behalf of our impacted producers, I welcome the opportunity to have Secretary Vilsack visit Florida to view firsthand the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and continued partnership serving Florida’s farmers. FDACS stands ready to assist the USDA-FSA as our Florida growers recover from yet another disastrous weather event.

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