Tallahassee, Fla. – Late yesterday, President Donald Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration for parts of Florida in response to Hurricane Sally, of which Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried had written the President in support. While the declaration makes public assistance available in Escambia County, it does not include individual assistance and leaves 12 other impacted Florida counties without additional federal aid as the Panhandle begins recovery.
Following that major disaster declaration, Commissioner Fried offered the following statement:
“I thank the president for issuing a Major Disaster Declaration for Escambia County in the wake of Hurricane Sally, which has devastated many North Florida agriculture producers. Following the completion of storm damage assessments, I urge the President to expand this declaration to cover all impacted Florida counties and provide federal assistance to individuals, including Farm Service Agency disaster loans. Further, I reiterate my request to the governor that he seek a USDA Secretarial disaster declaration for all impacted counties, which would make FSA disaster loans available for the agriculture community’s recovery. I hope that he and the Farm Service Agency will swiftly request this necessary federal assistance for our Panhandle farmers.”
Background: Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Florida/Alabama border early Wednesday, Sept. 16. The Category 2 storm unleashed close to 30 inches of rain across the Florida Panhandle, flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and causing up to 100 percent crop losses.
The president’s disaster declaration does not include additional public assistance for other impacted counties beyond Escambia, including Santa Rosa, Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Walton, and Washington, nor does it make available individual assistance, including Farm Service Agency disaster loans, for any of Florida’s impacted agriculture producers. This assistance may be provided through an expanded Major Disaster Declaration, or through a USDA Secretarial disaster declaration, which must be requested by a Governor, their authorized representative, or the U.S. Farm Service Agency state executive director. This declaration has not yet been requested by the Governor of Florida.
Agricultural crops in Florida impacted by Hurricane Sally include 100,000 acres each of peanuts, cotton, and hay; 10,000 acres of corn; 4,000 acres of horse farms, and other important commodities including seafood, aquaculture, pecans, walnuts, and timber. On Sunday, Commissioner Fried toured the impacted area, meeting with 50 North Florida farmers. Fried also requested the Governor activate the state’s emergency bridge loan program to assist agriculture producers facing losses.