On Monday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried, State Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City), State Representative Brad Drake (R-DeFuniak Springs) and Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels toured Hurricane Michael-damaged Jackson County and surrounding areas and discussed hurricane damage and ongoing recovery efforts and needs.
The group toured several agricultural operations including timber, cotton and soybean farms in Jackson and Calhoun counties, and met with state forest rangers at the Florida Forest Service Marianna Forestry Station. Later, the commissioner and lawmakers held a media event at Chipola College alongside college president Sarah Clemmons to highlight Hurricane Michael’s devastating effects on local communities.
Commissioner Fried discussed the need for swift action and funding to clear up to 72 million tons of downed trees across 1.5 million acres, a key step to reducing the threat of wildfires and invasive pests. Fried also called for a sales tax exemption on equipment and materials to help rebuild farms and communities, and funding for state-backed low-cost loans to help farmers replant crops.
“The damage these communities has been dealt is unprecedented. They are resilient, but need our help to recover — and I’m committed to seeing that we get them that help,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We need a coordinated response, and I’m grateful that Sen. Gainer and Rep. Drake joined me today in calling for faster relief in this region – there’s no time to waste. We don’t want our producers and farmers to have a lost season. We can’t afford for that to happen.”