Agriculture disaster status sought for 36 Florida counties

Sep 4, 2008

Palm Beach Post--September 03, 2008

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — A disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is being sought for 36 Florida counties that suffered crop damage from Tropical Storm Fay Aug. 19., Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson said Wednesday.

Damage was caused by excessive rainfall, flooding, high winds, lightning and multiple tornadoes brought by Fay, Bronson said in a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Bronson wants Crist to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declare the counties a disaster.

The counties meet the threshold of at least 30 percent agricultural losses as required by the federal Farm Service Agency, said Terry McElroy of the state Agriculture Department.

Once the disaster declaration is made, producers in the 36 counties will be able to apply for various types of disaster relief such as loans.

The dollar amount of the damage to citrus, vegetables, nurseries, cotton, hay and other crops as well as to pasture land is still being tallied, but it is significant and will be in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions, McElroy estimated.

In addition, Bronson wrote to Crist, "significant amounts of standing water remain in some counties that do not currently meet the threshold for a declaration" – but they may qualify as the full extent of damage is determined.

St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee and Indian River are among the 36 counties with Fay-related losses.