April 29, 2019
In a press conference on April 25, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody and several Panhandle lawmakers joined Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis as he gave an emotional speech about the need for disaster relief for Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. All in attendance expressed their disappointment in lack of movement from Congress to provide aid to the region.
More than six months ago, the Category 5 storm destroyed about 1.8 million acres of timberland, which officials say need to be cleared in order to prevent another disaster from striking the area – wildfire. The rough estimate to clear debris from one acre of land is $2,000.
Both federal and state lawmakers have yet to pass any measurable aid for farmers in the region. Several proposed bills are still making their way for the legislative process to provide relief measures for farmers in the area. However, as session winds down, state officials are pressing for federal aid.
Fried commented on the need for a “Plan B” for funding cleanup for the region. She stated she is still hopeful that through the budget conferencing process, more funds will be made available for those in the Panhandle.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley disagrees. He told reporters on Thursday that the state government has “…gone above and beyond…” for the Panhandle and that “…it’s time for the federal government to step up.”
On the federal side, United States House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in the coming weeks that federal lawmakers will consider a disaster relief package. That vote is tentatively scheduled for the week of May 6, according to media reports.
Florida Farm Bureau continues to make every effort to provide relief to the Panhandle. An action alert asking members to provide comments to both state and federal officials in support of disaster relief in the Panhandle was sent this week. If you would like to send a message to both your state and federal delegation, you can do so by clicking here.