Congressman Rooney and USDA Officials Agree on the Shortfalls of Protection for Citrus Growers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Tom Rooney questioned three high-level officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the Office of Management and Budget’s most recent request for emergency disaster relief funding.
“It was good to hear Dr. Johansson acknowledge that the current crop insurance program does not offer adequate protection for citrus growers and that we must make reforms in the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill,” said Rooney. “However, our citrus growers have been reeling from the impact of Hurricane Irma for nearly three months now and need immediate assistance from the federal government. As we continue to address long-term protection shortcomings, Congress has a responsibility to offer these growers the aid that they are currently in desperate need of. Otherwise, any reforms we make to the crop insurance program for specialty crops in the 2018 Farm Bill will be of no help to growers forced to close their groves because of Hurricane Irma.”
Before Hurricane Irma hit, Florida’s citrus industry was projected to produce 78 million boxes during the 2017-2018 season. After the hurricane the industry is projected to produce a historically low 50 million boxes. Due to this substantial drop, the number of oranges imported from countries like Brazil will eclipse those grown in the United States for the first time in recent history.
An estimated 77% of the citrus acreage in Florida is covered by some form of crop insurance. However, the level of coverage offered through a basic crop insurance policy would only cover roughly 25% of a total loss. “The oranges that fell off of the trees are gone,” concluded Rooney. “If we do not find a way to help citrus growers pay this year’s bills, they will not be able to continue production in the years to come.”