It can be argued that farming is the backbone of a successful society. Florida reflects this with an economy that leans heavily on a healthy agriculture industry with more than 47,500 farms, employing more than two million people, and almost $254 billion in sales revenue.
That’s why Hurricane Idalia’s destructive path through the Big Bend region was so troubling as it crippled infrastructure and destroyed chicken farms, damaged crops, hurt livestock and left farmers and growers in crisis. The damage from the CAT 4 storm might have been most visible in Taylor County, which is the heart of Florida’s timber industry where tall pine trees were turned into matchsticks.
The need was great and state lawmakers and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson agreed to plant the seed for recovery during a special session late last year. Now, farmers, ranchers and growers get to reap the benefits.
Two agricultural disaster recovery programs were launched this month with more than $112 million in funding for loans to restore and replace essential property and equipment and remove debris. The loan program offers low-interest or interest-free loans up to $500,000 for eligible producers. The timber recovery program offers grants to eligible timberland owners up to $250,000 which can be used for site preparation, the purchase of seedling, replanting and post-planting herbicide costs.