Help for Florida timber farmers coming in ‘weeks,’ U.S. agriculture secretary says

TALLAHASSEE – Northwest Florida’s hurricane-ravaged timber industry will have to wait “weeks, not months” for help from the $19.1 billion national disaster-relief package signed last week by President Donald Trump.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, appearing with Gov. Ron DeSantis at a roundtable discussion at the Governor’s Mansion, gave that timeline to fully roll out operations to assist Florida’s timber industry, which suffered an estimated $1.3 billion in losses from Category 5 Hurricane Michael in October.

Perdue said his agency must first get the application paperwork and process in order.

“We don’t want a bureaucratic hurdle about that, but we want to do things smartly, but honestly and with integrity,” Perdue said. “Like all of us, when there is free money on the table, everybody dives for it, so we have to make sure we have the right people at the table.”

Perdue said the timber assistance should emulate a $340 million block grant created for Florida citrus growers as part of a separate federal disaster package approved in February 2018.

Florida citrus growers endured more than $761 million in losses from Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

But it took months before applications were accepted from citrus growers for the block grant funds, and just $3 million had been distributed as 2019 began.

After DeSantis took office in January, the application process was accelerated.

Jared Moskowitz, DeSantis’ emergency management director, said that $72 million has reached the citrus groves as of Friday.

The latest federal disaster-relief package includes $4.5 billion for agriculture-related losses nationwide. Florida anticipates getting $480 million for forest restoration.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the quicker the reforestation is under way “will save not only the area, but the economy and the environment.”

Alan Shelby, executive vice president of the Florida Forestry Association, estimated that 16,000 landowners in the state were struck by the storm on Oct. 10.

Perdue said a challenge for the federal government is that timber, which takes decades to grow, isn’t like more seasonal crops.

“There’s going to be a lot of discovery that has to take place, regarding what the degree of damage was, (and) quantify that,” Perdue said. “That will take a lot of people, and we look forward with working with the state folks, as well, in getting that done.”

The state has spent $1.8 billion assisting in the cleanup and recovery from Michael, and Florida officials have waited nearly eight months for the federal disaster package.

DeSantis noted that Mexico Beach, which took the brunt of Michael’s landfall, has an operating budget of about $3 million a year. Without outside assistance, it would be left on its own to handle an $80 million debris-cleanup bill.

Report

Written by Tom, All Things Arb Editor

Qualified Arborist/ Business owner now turned content producer for All Things Arb writing about anything and everything to do with the industry! Spiderjack user and DMM abuser.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading…

0

Comments

0 comments

What do you think?

0 points

North Carolina Bald Cypress Tree Is at Least 2,674 Years Old

Forest Service analysis released on aspen logging project