U.S. House Passes Florida citrus relief for hurricane damage

U.S. House passes Florida citrus relief for hurricane damage

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U.S. House passes Florida citrus relief for hurricane damage

On June 12, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for legislation providing long-awaited relief to Florida citrus growers impacted in 2022 by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The bill awaits a vote in the Senate to make it law. 

Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM), based in Bartow, FL, announced this key development in a June 13 press release. FCM credits Florida Congressman Scott Franklin for sponsoring this bill, Block Grant Assistance Act (H.R. 662). Companion legislation (S. 180) was filed in the Senate by U.S. Senator Rick Scott with Senator Marco Rubio as an original co-sponsor.

 “The Block Grant Assistance Act is essential to the recovery of Florida’s citrus growers from the severe damages inflicted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. That’s why I am grateful to Rep. Franklin and the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Block Grant Assistance Act – relief Florida’s citrus growers have been eagerly awaiting since last fall,” states Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Today’s passage is an important step in the right direction. Now, I urge the U.S. Senate to act quickly and pass the Block Grant Assistance Act to allow Florida citrus growers to rebuild and replant so we can continue to harvest and produce America’s favorite breakfast juice.”

As FreshFruitPortal.com reported earlier this week, the USDA announced June 9 that the citrus crop forecast for the 2022-2023 harvest season is expected to be just 15.75 million boxes of oranges in Florida. Additionally, the USDA forecasted 1.82 million boxes of grapefruit and 490,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos in Florida.

Related articles: Florida citrus down as season comes to end

 USDA's June forecast for the 2022-2023 season represents just 6.4% of the industry's peak production of 244 million boxes of oranges during the 1997-98 season. The industry's decline is a result of its battle against greening and the destruction and devastation caused by recent hurricanes, FCM indicates. 

According to the University of Florida IFAS, Hurricane Ian’s path touched roughly 375,000 acres of citrus groves across the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates Hurricane Ian inflicted up to $675 million in damages to Florida's citrus growers.  

In December 2022, Congress appropriated $3.7 billion in aid for agricultural losses due to hurricanes and other natural disasters as part of the federal omnibus bill. Unfortunately, without the needed flexibility to allocate those funds, the much-needed relief has yet to reach Florida’s citrus growers, says FCM. 

The proposed Block Grant Assistance Act enables the creation of a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support specialty crops, like citrus, damaged by natural disasters – giving the agency the authorization it needs to distribute the relief. This model proved effective in 2017 in supporting the recovery of citrus groves impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Founded in 1948 and currently representing nearly 2,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state's largest citrus grower organization. The Florida citrus industry creates a $6.8 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 33,000 people, and covering more than 400,000 acres. 

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