USDA, State Government Starts $380 Million Grant Program for Hurricane Michael Recovery

At the end of last week, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Forest Service (FFS) announced the launch of a $380 million grant program to help farmers and forest landowners recover from Hurricane Michael which hit the state in October 2018.

The funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which will have the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the FFS manage the Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant Program and the Florida Irrigation Recovery Block Grant Program.

“It’s been nearly two years since Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle as one of America’s worst-ever storms,” said Fried on Friday. “As we enter the next phase of securing relief for producers and landowners, I am more confident than ever in the future of Florida’s forest industry as we work together to get trees back in the ground. Thank you to Secretary Perdue for keeping Florida’s $25 billion timber industry at the forefront of recovery efforts.”

“I commend the remarkable resilience of the landowners, and thank our state and federal partners and our Florida Forest Service personnel for remaining focused on restoring the timber industry in the Panhandle,” said Erin Albury, the state forester and the director of the FFS. “The countless hours invested in this effort will ensure Florida’s forest resources are available for future generations.”

Timber farmers will be eligible for the Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant Program (TRBG) of they are “the owner of record or the lessee who has rights to the timber crop at the time of application of a minimum of 10 contiguous acres of nonindustrial private forest land located in one of the following counties: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington” and had at least 25 percent timber losses in the hurricane.

Floridians who are the “owner of record of center pivot irrigation infrastructure at the time of application and document that the crop growing under the center pivot as of October 10, 2018, sustained a minimum 15 percent crop loss due to Hurricane Michael” can be eligible for the Florida Irrigation Recovery Block Grant Program.

From his seat on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been urging the USDA to send more money to Florida to help with the recovery efforts.

“It’s great news that USDA has disbursed the approximately $380 million in funding to Florida to support the timber disaster block grant program,” Rubio said at the end of last week. “The timber industry is integral to Northwest Florida’s economy, but Hurricane Michael’s destruction decimated timber tracts, erasing decades of investments and putting the viability of the regional economy in jeopardy. I remain committed to assisting the entire Northwest Florida community in their recovery from this tragic natural disaster and will continue my work to help the timber industry get back on its feet.”

Floridians have until November 20 to apply.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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