State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday requested a federal disaster declaration for 17 counties after Hurricane Ian caused widespread damage to farms and ranches. Fried sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture pointing to farm and ranch losses in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Seminole counties.
“Our preliminary data have already determined that these counties meet the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) requirement of 30 percent production loss thresholds for at least one crop for secretarial disaster designation eligibility,” Fried said Thursday while at Lipman Farms in LaBelle. “This designation is critical for impacted producers to receive the federal assistance needed to recover and would immediately trigger the availability of low interest (Farm Service Agency) emergency farm loans.” Fried said Ian crossed more than 4 million acres of agriculture land two weeks ago, damaging citrus groves, dairies, nurseries and livestock, along with such crops as tomatoes and green peppers.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., submitted a disaster-spending request of $33 billion to help rebuild after Ian, including $2.955 billion to address effects on the agriculture industry.