U.S.: Bill introduced to help Florida growers hit by Oriental fruit fly
Representatives Curbelo (FL-26) and Graham (FL-02) drew up a bill that would use Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds to assist growers within the Miami-Dade County quarantine zone who had been affected.
Oriental fruit fly specimens were first found in Florida in late August. The pest attacks more than 230 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including avocados, figs, grapefruit, guavas, loquats, mangoes, rose apples, papayas, peaches, persimmons, Surinam cherries and white sapotes.
“On October 1, 2015 a 98 square-mile quarantine was issued in South Miami-Dade County to contain a recent discovery of Oriental Fruit Flies," Curbelo said in a release.
"Though the quarantine has been absolutely necessary, and so far effective, to eradicate this invasive pest, it has taken a toll on local farmers who have been unable to plant or bring their crops to market."
He said the bill named H.R. 4226 would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary to make makes from the CCC available to South Florida farmers, providing 'much needed relief' to those who have been 'severely impacted'.
"Crop insurance or similar products do not cover market losses due to a state or federal quarantine, making the CCC the only available option for relief," Curbelo added.
On the U.S. Congress website, a posting says the bill would provide funds to 'eligible producers on farms that have incurred losses because of an inability to ship a crop to market, or by being prevented from planting or growing a crop, due to a Federal Government or a State government quarantine to control the Oriental fruit fly'.
The bill will ensure that one-time payments are made only to farmers in the quarantined area and that the payment to each grower does not exceed 70% of the rolling average market value of their crop.
No single farmer will be eligible to receive more than US$125,000.
In addition, any farmer receiving a payment as a result of this legislation will be required to purchase crop insurance or a similar product for two years to ensure participation in agriculture protection programs.
"The Oriental Fruit Fly has the potential to decimate the agriculture community throughout Florida and our nation," Curbelo said.
"It is critical we eradicate this invasive pest immediately while still providing impacted farmers with the relief they need to grow next season."
Graham added that Florida farmers deserved to know that when a disaster strikes, the government 'has their back'.
"I’m proud to work on this bipartisan legislation with Representative Curbelo and applaud him for his work on this important issue," he said.
Meanwhile, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam also praised the recently introduced bill.
"Congressman Curbelo has been working diligently with the growers in his district who have been affected by the Oriental fruit fly, and this legislation is a great way to assist those who have suffered economic losses," Putnam said in a statement.
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons