The House of Representatives this week approved a frustratingly delayed bill to provide disaster relief in the wake of this year’s hurricanes and wildfires in an $81 billion spending measure that sets aside $2.6 billion for agricultural losses.
It’s almost double the amount requested by President Trump and lawmakers hope the bill will receive final approval before the end of the year.
Florida agriculture alone sustained $2.5 billion in damages from Hurricane Irma, the largest part of those a $750 million whack to the citrus industry, which had been left exposed in previous aid proposals.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), a member of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, was one of several Floridians instrumental in the bill’s passage.
“The bill released today fully funds my request to help Florida farmers recover from the storm, providing a total of $2.6 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make direct payments to producers who’ve suffered hurricane-related crop losses this year,” he said. “This has been a trying time for all of the state’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who have been working tirelessly for months to recover from the devastation caused by Irma throughout Florida’s Heartland.
“I am glad to say we finally cleared the first major hurdle by securing this funding in the latest disaster supplemental bill. I am grateful to House Leadership for working with me and all of the industry stakeholders in Florida to support this funding and for their commitment to getting this bill approved before the end of the year.”
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said, “Florida’s farmers, ranchers and growers suffered unprecedented damage from Hurricane Irma, and today’s announcement of proposed emergency funding for Florida agriculture is the first bit of good news we’ve heard in months.
“I want to thank Rep. Rooney, Gov. Rick Scott and the entire Florida congressional delegation for working tirelessly to get Florida agriculture the relief it desperately needs. I will continue to work with leaders in Washington to make sure that this funding becomes a reality so Florida’s agriculture industry can continue to do what it does best: feed our state, our country and the world.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, also applauded the relief bill, noting it sends almost $3 billion to help Florida and other states deal with displaced students from Puerto Rico; $12.1 billion to repair Army Corps of Engineers projects, including those in Everglades National Park, damaged by the recent disasters and almost $616.5 million to help those parks recover; $1.66 billion to help the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) disaster loan program; and more than $1.35 billion to help infrastructure damaged by hurricanes.
In weeks following Hurricane Irma, Putnam joined Scott in Washington D.C to discuss the agricultural damage and to request federal assistance with Florida’s Congressional Delegation. Calls for relief continued, especially after agriculture went unaddressed in initial aid packages.
“I would like to especially thank the farmers, ranchers, and growers in my district and throughout the state for their incredible patience as we’ve worked to get this done,” Rooney said. “We also couldn’t have been successful without the dedication of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the rest of the Florida delegation who came together to address this issue with an ‘all hands on deck’ approach.”
Putnam is returning to Washington this week to drum up more support for the bill as it heads on to the Senate.