This week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Fla., held a roundtable on Florida’s citrus industry.
Scott and Franklin met with the “Highlands Citrus Association and citrus growers from Highlands, Hardee, Hendry and Glades Counties to discuss pressing issues facing the citrus industry.”
Scott’s office noted that recent storms had hit the industry, which was already being devastated by citrus greening, hard.
“The loss and devastation caused by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole has forever changed communities across our state and the lives of so many Florida families and businesses. Folks in the Sunshine State are still picking up the pieces. These industries are the backbone of our state and I will keep working to ensure they get the help they need to fully recover. I won’t stop fighting to make sure that the federal government keeps showing up,” Scott said.
“Our citrus growers know we are here to listen and help. Today’s roundtable event serves as an important reminder of the incredible devastation our growers suffered over the past year. I will continue to push my House colleagues to move my Block Grant Assistance Act, which Senator Scott is leading in his chamber. It will pave the way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring relief to growers in the near term. I thank Senator Scott for putting this event together as we fight to help our critical citrus industry,” Franklin said.
At the end of January, Scott and Franklin brought out the “Block Grant Assistance Act,” with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., co-sponsoring it.
“This bill will provide the Agriculture Secretary needed authority to provide block grants to the state of Florida to assist producers affected by the two hurricanes,” Franklin’s office noted.
“The Florida citrus industry is synonymous with the Sunshine State and the backbone of many of our rural communities,” said Franklin when he introduced it. “Between an extreme hurricane season and ongoing issues such as citrus greening, our resilient citrus growers continue to navigate significant challenges. It’s critical that we provide immediate support so Americans can continue to enjoy the staples our domestic citrus industry provides.”
“The loss and devastation caused by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole has forever changed communities across our state and the lives of so many Florida families and businesses,” said Scott. “Folks in the Sunshine State are still picking up the pieces, and I’ve continued to work closely with USDA, FEMA and SBA to ensure they remain a top priority during this time of recovery. As we work to get the citrus and agriculture community back on their feet, I won’t stop fighting to make sure that the federal government keeps showing up. Our Block Grant Assistance Act is a step in the right direction to ensure Florida’s agriculture industry gets the help they need.”
“A Florida citrus comeback cannot be waylaid by hurricanes and greening, so I’m proud to help ensure that our U.S. Department of Agriculture has the back of growers and processors as they rebuild, replant and revive the harvests that fuel America’s breakfast table,” said Wasserman Schultz.
Since the end of January, two dozen other House members, all from Florida, lined up behind the bill which also has the support of some leaders of Florida’s agriculture community.
“Thanks to Rep. Franklin and Sen. Scott for fighting for Florida’s citrus growers,” said Matt Joyner, the president of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Just as the industry was on the verge of a comeback, Hurricanes Ian and Nicole dealt us another blow. The Block Grant Assistance Act will enable Florida’s citrus growers to rebuild and replant so we can continue to harvest and produce America’s favorite breakfast juice.”
“The statewide toll of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole on the Florida agricultural industry was devastating,” said Mike Joyner, the president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. “The supplemental disaster relief funding in the omnibus bill secured critically needed support for the industry’s recovery efforts. However, it failed to recognize the full impact and reach those who needed it most. The introduction of this bill will provide flexibility to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to better address grower needs. We are grateful to Congressman Franklin and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, who heard the industry’s concerns and are championing this needed change.”
Last month, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said he backed the proposal.
“Florida’s agriculture community suffered more than a billion dollars in damage this past hurricane season, and the impacts are still being felt by producers today. I applaud Representative Scott Franklin, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and the entire Florida congressional delegation for prioritizing this bill to give the support and relief needed for the industry to recover from the devastating storms and allow Florida to continue to provide the safest, most abundant, and affordable food supply in the nation – and the world,” Simpson said.
Franklin’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee which assigned it to its Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit. Scott’s bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
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