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Florida farmers to receive $380M in USDA disaster relief

Timber damage from Michael estimated at $1.3 billion.JPG
Posted at 11:20 AM, Nov 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-08 14:12:47-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida farmers will receive $380 million in ⁦⁩federal block grant funding to help recover and replant from Hurricane Michael.

According to a press release, Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried made the announcement on Friday.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management will administer the USDA block grants. Officials say Florida secured nearly half of the $800 million in federal block grant funding for Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina disaster relief programs.

The funds will compensate timber producers for lost value of their crop damaged by Hurricane Michael, helping them clear downed trees and replant. Block grant funding will also help producers repair and replace irrigation infrastructure damage from Hurricane Michael.

“This funding is a huge victory for Florida’s timber producers. Since January, we’ve been working closely with USDA to secure relief for our timber industry, whose resilience in the year following Hurricane Michael has been extraordinary,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “In the coming weeks, our priority will be moving this funding forward, so that timber producers can have checks in hand and trees in the ground. Thank you to the USDA and Secretary Perdue for helping us put Florida’s farmers first.”

They say the application process for timber producers to receive the grant funding will be finalized in the next several weeks.

“We are truly grateful to Secretary Perdue and the USDA for this historic timber landowner recovery program,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “Forests play a vital economic and ecological role in the Florida Panhandle, and this program will help landowners mitigate the devastating loss due to Hurricane Michael, reforest their land, and rebuild their livelihoods.”

Timber is the leading industry in the Florida Panhandle, and suffered a $1.3 billion economic blow from Hurricane Michael.

Officials say an estimated 550 million trees, weighing 72 million tons, were damaged or destroyed by the massive Category 5 hurricane.