U.S. House passes Scott Franklin bill seeking post-hurricane grants for citrus industry
Scott Frankin hopes to boost the nation's tech support.

Scott Franklin
Rick Scott will champion the issue in the Senate.

Federal grants could soon be on the way to Florida farmers devastated by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

The U.S. House passed legislation allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue block grants to farms impacted by last year’s storms. The bill (HR 662) was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican whose district includes most of Florida’s citrus farms.

“The Florida citrus industry is synonymous with the Sunshine State and the backbone of many of our rural communities,” Franklin said.

“Extreme hurricane seasons, ongoing trade disadvantages and invasive diseases have forced citrus growers to navigate significant challenges. I’m pleased the House acted to provide needed support so Americans can continue to enjoy the staples our domestic citrus industry provides.”

Franklin rallied support on both sides of the aisle for the citrus assistance. Every member of Florida’s congressional delegation signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. The legislation cleared the House Monday night on a voice vote.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated the 2022 storms destroyed 90% of Florida citrus production, delivering a $675 million blow to the state industry.

The House legislation takes an approach similar to 2018, when the USDA was authorized to issue block grants to farms after Hurricane Irma. After that storm, the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management created the Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant to facilitate such payments.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson lobbied federal officials to allow block grants after Ian and Nicole.

“I applaud the effectiveness of the Florida delegation led by Rep. Franklin,” Simpson said. “They sent a powerful message with a strong unanimous voice to protect Florida agriculture and connect them with much-needed relief. Producing our own food is key to our national security, and I thank our delegation for their support.”

Industry leaders said the support comes at a vital time.

“Back-to-back major storms in 2022 only compounded the challenges facing Florida growers who are already struggling to make a comeback,” said Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “I am pleased that thanks to Rep. Franklin the House acted to provide authority for this much-needed relief.”

But the measure must still advance through the Senate.

Notably, U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, pushed for emergency language to expedite the path for the legislation in the upper chamber.

There, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is carrying the bill.

“The loss and devastation caused by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole has forever changed communities across our state and the lives of so many Florida families and businesses,” Scott said. “Folks in the Sunshine State are still picking up the pieces, and I’ve continued to work closely with USDA, FEMA and (the Small Business Administration) to ensure they remain a top priority during this time of recovery.

“As we work to get the citrus and agriculture community back on their feet, I won’t stop fighting to make sure that the federal government keeps showing up. I applaud Congressman Franklin getting our Block Grant Assistance Act passed in the House. This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensure Florida’s agriculture industry gets the help they need, and I urge its immediate passage in the Senate.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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