DeSantis, Fried Call on USDA for Special Disaster Declaration for Florida Farmers


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) have simultaneously called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue a Disaster Declaration for farmers and growers in counties impacted by the recent, uncharacteristic hard freeze.

DeSantis penned a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in which he reinforced Florida’s agricultural impact to the American economy, and how much Florida’s farmers have had to endure.

“In late January, temperatures in some portions of Central and South Florida dropped to their lowest in over a decade, damaging crops across the area during a key time in their development,” DeSantis said. “In response, I declared a State of Emergency and deployed the Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management to South Florida to survey the impacts on this vital sector of Florida’s economy. Initial reports show a total loss in some areas, with lettuce, cabbage, green beans, radishes, and sweet corn being especially vulnerable to the sudden temperature drop.”

When DeSantis issued the State of Emergency he said that one of the necessary actions is mobilizing an early harvest for numerous types of crops. Gene McAvoy, associate director for Stakeholder Relations at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, told to The Florida Capital Star that the impact of the freeze and a delayed harvest could cost farmers upwards of tens of millions of dollars.

Agriculture Commissioner Fried also penned a letter to Vilsack where she relayed the severity of the impacted crops.

“In Hendry County, our staff toured over 1,600 acres of sweet corn that was damaged or a complete loss. Touring 600 acres of green beans, all stages of the plants and beans were impacted—from significant bloom drop and freezing injury to anticipated damage when harvesting that will result in the produce not making grade. In Palm Beach County, various types of lettuces over approximately 500 acres of farmlands had visible injuries. Additionally, we expect impacts on our citrus, celery, radish, and sugar harvests, among others. On behalf of our impacted producers, we would welcome the opportunity to have you visit Florida to view firsthand the devastating harm caused by the recent freeze requiring a disaster designation and federal support to recover.”

The USDA press team was unable to respond to The Capital Star’s request for comment regarding if and when a Disaster Declaration would be announced.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.




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