TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s request for a Secretarial disaster declaration for dozens of counties impacted by freezing temperatures in late January.
“We are grateful to Secretary Vilsack and the Biden Administration for granting our request for a USDA disaster declaration after record lows at the end of January caused crop damages and losses. It’s critical that our impacted producers have access to federal assistance as they recover from extreme weather events. While Florida producers are resilient in the face of many ongoing challenges, the extensive damage caused by this freeze continues to be assessed and we welcome this additional support,” Commissioner Fried said.
The 17 primary counties now eligible for USDA emergency loans and certain other federal assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) are Broward, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Manatee, Martin, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie, and Sarasota counties. The 10 contiguous counties also eligible for USDA assistance are Brevard, Charlotte, Lake, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sumter. A disaster declaration decision in 10 additional counties has been deferred until harvest when production losses can be accurately determined.
Producers in all 27 eligible Florida counties will have eight months from the March 21, 2022 date of the Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, click here. Agriculture producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for additional details.
After the freeze occurred, Commissioner Fried wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in support of a Secretarial Disaster Designation to provide additional assistance to Florida producers experiencing losses due to the freezing temperatures. Such requests must be made of the Secretary of Agriculture by a governor or the governor’s authorized representative or by a Farm Service agency (FSA) State Executive Director (SED) per the USDA-FSA. Immediately following the freeze, Commissioner Fried also requested for the Governor to declare a state of emergency and for the Florida Department of Transportation to issue an emergency order allowing farmers to move as much product as possible while it was still salvageable, both of which were granted shortly thereafter.
The letter informing of the Secretarial disaster declaration can be viewed here.