Agriculture Commissioner Putnam asking for citrus relief

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
October 12, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (CNS) -- Orange lovers got a bit of good news today, as it was revealed that Hurricane Irma's damage to the state's citrus industry isn't quite as bad as first thought.

But, State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is still seeking federal help.

Irma is estimated to have wiped out 70 percent of the state's citrus crop this year, and early estimates projected the crop would have the lowest yield in 75 years.

New projections that came in on Thursday show the crop fared better than anticipated; oranges are down 21 percent from last year while grapefruit and tangerines are down by almost 40 percent.

While Irma is long gone, the damage is still piling up.

"You can stand in the grove and continue to hear fruit fall," Putnam said.

The widespread scope of the damage will likely translate to higher prices at the grocery store.

"The alternative to that would be a flood of imports from foreign countries that could over time replace market share that should be going to Florida's farmers,“ Putnam explained. He wants Florida's Congress to allocate $2.5 billion to help farmers around the state recover.

A Senate Committee heard from farmers on Thursday.

Third-generation citrus farmer and Citrus Commission chairman Ellis Hunt said he'd never seen damage as great as Irma's.

"This time it got everything," he said. "We did not survive in any area and it's just that widespread damage that's the real devastation this go around.”

Senator Dennis Baxley said the need for federal assistance is imperative if the industry is to recover.

"The urgency is upon us and 20 percent of our economy is still agriculture," he said.

Relief could be voted on as early as next week, or as late as December.

The Disaster Aid bill passed through the US House of Representatives this afternoon. The request for agriculture relief wasn't included. The bill will be taken up by the US Senate next week.

By: Associated Press
October 12, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's famous oranges are still falling from trees weeks after Hurricane Irma, and officials say there'll be fewer Florida vegetables on Thanksgiving tables because of devastation from the storm.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Florida farmers said Thursday the storm damaged crops of all kinds. Losses are reported to peanuts, strawberries, cotton and tomatoes -- even Florida-grown poinsettias normally available around Christmas.

Putnam says farm workers in many parts of Florida have no crops to pick. He updated the state Senate Agriculture Committee about the storm damage to farms and ranches, then met separately with reporters to discuss the situation.

He added the storm was a gut-punch personally, saying his family's orange crop was shaping up as the best in years until about half the fruit was lost to Irma.

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