Three months after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Panhandle, parts of that region are continuing to recover–and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling for more funds and a sales tax exemption to help speed up the process.
On Monday, elected officials from both sides of the aisle toured Jackson and Calhoun Counties to inspect damage from the hurricane. Fried, Republican legislators state Sen. George Gainer of Panama City and state Rep. Brad Drake of DeFuniak Springs and Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels toured the area, meeting with state forest rangers and inspecting agriculture in the region. They also met with Chipola College President Sarah Clemons.
“Commissioner Fried discussed the need for swift action and funding to clear up to 72 million tons of downed trees across 1.5 million acres, a key step to reducing the threat of wildfires and invasive pests. Fried also called for a sales tax exemption on equipment and materials to help rebuild farms and communities, and funding for state-backed low-cost loans to help farmers replant crops,” her office noted.
“The damage these communities has been dealt is unprecedented. They are resilient, but need our help to recover – and I’m committed to seeing that we get them that help,” said Fried on Monday. “We need a coordinated response, and I’m grateful that Sen. Gainer and Rep. Drake joined me today in calling for faster relief in this region – there’s no time to waste. We don’t want our producers and farmers to have a lost season. We can’t afford for that to happen.”