Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried penned a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday, urging him to approve a Major Disaster Declaration request for Hurricane Sally impacted counties.
A major disaster declaration would make a variety of federal assistance programs available for area residents and public infrastructure reconstruction.
“This approval and a subsequent USDA Secretarial disaster declaration are critical for those impacted to receive federal resources needed to recover, including our agricultural producers in the Panhandle who experienced significant crop losses due to this storm,” Fried wrote.
Fried also sent letters to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Florida State Executive Director, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and other Panhandle congressmembers.
Those letters encourage the respective members to pursue a USDA Secretarial disaster declaration, which would require a separate request to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from DeSantis or the FSA state director.
Hurricane Sally made landfall along the Florida/Alabama border on Sept. 16. The Category 2 storm poured nearly 30 inches of rain and caused dramatic flooding across portions of the Florida Panhandle. In all, the flooding caused 100% crop loss and impacted the 100,000 acres worth of peanuts, cotton and hay; 10,000 acres of corn; and 4,000 acres of horse farms.
FEMA on Sept. 16 issued an emergency declaration which immediately made some disaster aid available. Major Disaster Declaration, however, would open more resources for the region.
The North Florida counties included in the Major Disaster Declaration request include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty,Okaloosa, Walton and Washington.
DeSantis originally requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration on Sept. 18.
The Panhandle recovery comes as the region was already attempting to recover from the 2018 impacts of Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that stands as one of the strongest storms on U.S. record.
Fried noted the region’s hardships in her letter to DeSantis.
“Florida farmers are resilient,” she wrote. “However, too often have our Panhandle agricultural producers had to weather some of the most devastating natural events in the last few years.”