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Wilton Simpson Plans to Ask Legislature for $2 Million to Help Timber Landowners Impacted by Hurricane Idalia

This week, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson announced a $2 million legislative budget request to directly support reforestation efforts for Florida’s timber landowners severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia. Should the Florida Legislature fund this request, the additional funding will be used to support timber landowners with the initial cost of site preparation, seedlings, and the planting of seedlings.

Simpson recently announced the release of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ preliminary damage assessment of timber following Hurricane Idalia. The preliminary assessment estimated that Hurricane Idalia damaged 289,096 acres of timber at a value of $64,751,255.

This $2 million request for targeted funding would be in addition to the request for $4 million for Florida’s Future Forests Program in the 2023-2024 state budget. The Florida’s Future Forests Program program offers landowners cost-share payments to help increase the acreage of Florida’s healthy forests, which provide clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and thousands of essential products. The program is open to non-industrial, private landowners, local governments, and registered nonprofit organizations and grants are provided on a lottery basis.

Since 2021, the Florida Legislature has appropriated approximately $12 million for this program. These funds have already been used to create 26,000 acres of healthy forests in Florida.

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Simpson also recently announced another cost-share assistance program to support agricultural producers severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia. The cost-share assistance program will be administered through the department’s Office of Agricultural Water Policy and will support agricultural producers in repairing or replacing damaged irrigation systems, while simultaneously promoting agricultural water efficiency and reducing nutrient application.

“We continue to work with key legislative members to create additional state-funded grant programs to support Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and growers severely impacted by Hurricane Idalia,” said Simpson. “While disaster recovery programs at the federal level can take years to support impacted producers, this targeted and state-funded grant program can quickly help Hurricane Idalia impacted timber landowners offset the initial cost of site preparation, seedlings, and the planting of seedlings.”

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