Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried urged the U.S. Senate to take immediate action on long-overdue Hurricane Michael relief. With both chambers set to adjourn on Friday until June 3, Fried asked senators to send a bipartisan disaster assistance package to the President’s desk before the end of the week. The U.S. House passed a bipartisan disaster bill on May 10. Last week, Commissioner Fried spoke at a bipartisan meeting of the Florida Congressional delegation calling for urgent Senate action on the legislation.
“If the Senate fails to act before adjourning this week, we will officially enter the 2019 hurricane season before Congress has passed relief for 2018’s disasters,” said Fried. “For more than seven months, the Panhandle has waited for the federal assistance needed to recover, replant and rebuild following Hurricane Michael – help that has yet to come as the situation on the ground grows more dire every day. Both the House and Senate must come together and pass a bipartisan package to help our fellow Americans struggling in the wake of recent disasters without further delay. This includes allowing the USDA to make assistance available for timber losses from Hurricane Michael as well as our blueberry and dairy farmers continuing to struggle following losses from hurricanes in 2017.”
In April, Commissioner Fried wrote to key members of Congressional leadership regarding the need to swiftly pass disaster funding, which she shared with every member of Congress along with the Hurricane Michael mini-documentary video she released.
Timber production is the leading sector of the agriculture industry in the Panhandle and a major driver of jobs in the communities devastated by Hurricane Michael. The timber industry is facing $1.3 billion in agricultural losses with 72 million tons of debris covering 3 million acres. Timber producers face major issues accessing crop insurance and crop loss assistance through current USDA programs. Additionally, the state’s blueberry producers and dairies have not been able to access federal assistance covering production losses caused by 2017 storms. At the Florida Congressional delegation meeting, Commissioner Fried called on the delegation to work together to address the oversights impacting support for Florida’s timber, blueberry and dairy industries.