Tallahassee, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s request on Tuesday for a Secretarial disaster declaration for several key counties impacted by Hurricane Sally.
The Secretarial disaster declaration names Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Counties as primary disaster areas related to Hurricane Sally, as well as Bay, Gulf, Leon, Liberty, and Walton as contiguous counties. This disaster declaration opens access to Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster loans for agriculture producers in counties where this aid was not previously available from earlier declarations, including Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson, Gulf, Leon, and Liberty Counties.
“This Secretarial disaster declaration is welcome news for our Panhandle farmers who have been long waiting for help following Hurricane Sally,” said Commissioner Fried. “In the immediate days following the storm we began asking the USDA to issue these declarations, making available much-needed Farm Service Agency assistance for producers, some of whom lost 100 percent of their crops. I thank Secretary Perdue for helping our North Florida producers who have been through so much since 2018 begin to rebuild and replant following this latest natural disaster.”
Farmers in eligible counties will have eight months from the Dec. 22 date of the Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator. Agriculture producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for additional details.
Background: Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Florida/Alabama border early Wednesday, September 16. The Category 2 storm unleashed close to thirty inches of rain across the Florida Panhandle, flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and causing up to 100 percent crop losses. Commissioner Fried toured the impacted area, meeting with 50 North Florida farmers, as well as requested the Governor activate the state’s emergency bridge loan program to assist agriculture producers facing losses. Fried also wrote to President Trump seeking an expanded Major Disaster Declaration to cover all counties, and to the Governor asking him to request a USDA Secretarial disaster declaration. In October, Fried authored an op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal urging the issuance of the Secretarial disaster declaration. 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.