Congressman Thomas J. Rooney

Representing the 17th District of Florida

Rooney Advocates for Emergency Funding for Florida Agriculture

Sep 18, 2017
Press Release

Rooney Advocates for Emergency Funding for Florida Agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Rooney lead a letter with other members of the Florida Congressional delegation to the leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Office of Management and Budget to request additional emergency relief funding for Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who were hit especially hard by Hurricane Irma.

“The damage to the agricultural community in my district, and across the state, was absolutely devastating,” said Rooney. “As the only Floridian on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, it is my responsibility to make sure that our farmers, ranchers, and growers get the help that they need from the federal government. My letter is intended to serve as a marker as we work with industry, the state of Florida, and USDA to further assess the damages incurred by our farmers and ranchers all over the state.  Unfortunately, we expect the economic damages to worsen as the days go on without restoration of power and provision of fuel in our state’s agricultural areas, and we want to ensure that Florida’s agriculture, especially the citrus industry, is not overlooked as Congress starts to discuss emergency funding. Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and growers are tough, and I know if we get them the relief they need, they will replant, regrow, and prove resilient. I am grateful that so many of my colleagues signed on in support of this letter and I am confident that we will rebuild our state’s agriculture industry.”

Rooney’s letter, which was signed by twenty-one members of the Florida delegation, asks for USDA disaster relief funds to be included in any subsequent Irma-related emergency supplemental funding bill. Furthermore, given the unprecedented devastation caused by Irma to Florida’s agriculture community, the letter asks for all emergency measures that the government has available be considered to help mitigate the crop loss suffered from Hurricane Irma. The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Lowey,

As members of the Florida Congressional Delegation, we are writing to ensure that Hurricane Irma’s devastating impact on our state’s agriculture industry is not overlooked as the House of Representatives considers emergency supplemental appropriations measures.   

Hurricane Irma moved through much of the land that is home to our state’s agriculture industry, specifically impacting citrus, beef, dairy, sugar, and fruit and vegetable farm operations. Our diverse agriculture community serves as a primary economic driver in the region. Florida’s farmers and ranchers provide an economic impact of over $120 billion and serve as the foundation for over 2 million jobs. Our state is responsible for over $4 billion worth of products exported to over 170 countries and territories around the world each year. The citrus industry alone has an $8.6 billion dollar economic impact that supports over 45,000 jobs.

The current major emergency declaration automatically opens most of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance programs and emergency loan programs in the same way as a Secretarial designation would. However, our growers and ranchers are in dire need of immediate and substantial federal assistance. In fact, many of the USDA programs that could offer potential relief to our growers and ranchers are substantially underfunded and require immediate and sustained appropriations in order to adequately respond to the needs on the ground. As an emergency supplemental appropriations package is developed, we urge you to include additional funding for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP), as well as the Farm Service Agency’s Salaries and Expenses account. These programs and all other agriculture disaster relief programs need to be designated as an emergency requirement in the forthcoming supplemental appropriations package.

Many of our state’s agriculture industries suffered massive production losses due to the hurricane’s extreme winds and rain. With respect to Florida’s citrus industry, the destruction caused by this Hurricane could not have happened at a worse time. Florida is no stranger to extreme weather and in the past we have always rebounded. However, the level of crop damage, crop loss, and grove destruction caused by Hurricane Irma’s winds and rains could serve as a death blow to those in the citrus industry. Initial crop losses among groves in the gulf area are estimated to be around 60-70 percent, with some growers reporting as much as a 75 percent loss of their citrus crop. These losses are catastrophic considering the ongoing destruction caused by citrus greening, which has decimated production levels in Florida over the past decade.

Those growers and all of Florida’s farmers and ranchers need an effective and adequate response from the federal government. We urge you to consider all relief options at the disposal of the federal government from providing sufficient funding to the programs that will mitigate the impact of losses to including – as an emergency requirement in a supplemental appropriations package – to a mechanism that provides a direct payment to the growers for the losses caused by this storm. A direct recoup for the suffered losses could be the lifeline that many, especially those in the citrus industry, need in order to stay in business in Florida.

Thank you for your consideration of this request and for all you have done so far to mitigate the devastating impact from this storm.