Agriculture Press Release

October 25, 1999

Crawford Seeks Federal Assistance
As Storm Damage Reaches $400 Million

TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford today set in motion a request for federal assistance for South Florida farmers who suffered an estimated $400 million in crop and infrastructure damage due to Hurricane Irene.

Crawford detailed the losses in a letter to Governor Jeb Bush asking that he seek an agriculture disaster declaration from USDA Secretary Dan Glickman that would qualify farmers in six counties for federal financial assistance.

"Our farmers once again have been struck a financial blow," Crawford said, "and we must explore all avenues to help them recover and resume their important role of supplying American consumers with fresh winter fruits and vegetables."

Preliminary reports indicate that Dade County alone may have suffered losses of more than $230 million in vegetable, tropical fruit and nursery crops.

Preliminary surveys in Palm Beach, Broward, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River also indicate heavy damage, with losses estimated at another $170 million in the five-county coastal region, where Irene dumped 15-20 inches of rain and racked the crops with winds in excess of 80 mph.

Surveys are being continued in the contiguous counties of Monroe, Collier, Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee, Osceola and Brevard.

Crawford said that more than 650,000 agriculture acres had been impacted by the storm, and that it may be two or three weeks before the full extent of the damage is determined.

Confirmed so far are crop losses ranging as high as 85 percent on more than 30,000 acres of tropical fruits and winter vegetables in the six-county area, with a lost value of about $135 million. Of those losses, Dade County alone accounted for more than $100 million.

Nursery stock losses in the impacted area amount to an estimated $215 million, with damages estimated at nearly $130 million in Dade County.

Early estimated losses for citrus ranged from 15-20 percent on 225,000 acres in the Indian River Valley, where damage surveys are still ongoing.

Preliminary Estimated Agricultural Losses
Due to Hurricane Irene

County Commodity Affected Acres % of Loss Yield Total Ag Loss Value
Broward Vegetables 1,100 80% $5,866,000
Citrus 400 20% $45,000
Nursery 2,200 60% $20,000,000
Misc. *** 200 70% $6,000,000
Total   3,900   $31,911,000
Dade Vegetables 13,682 95% $55,701,729
Tropical Vegetables 5,720 98% $19,407,610
Sugarcane 210 70% $2,267,130
Fruit/Tropical Fruit 3,815 67% $23,387,280
Nursery 3,195 75% $125,000,000
Aquaculture 5 15% $150,000
Total   26,626   $229,983,757
Indian River

St. Lucie


Vegetables 3,000 75% $14,998,000
Citrus 225,000 20% $25,425,000
Nursery 2,000 50% $22,972,000
Sugarcane 9,000 1% $124,000
Aquaculture 30 25% **
Total   239,030   $63,519,000
Palm Beach Vegetables 3,821 61% $16,000,000
Citrus 10,617 5% $1,500,000
Sugarcane 360,000 1% $5,000,000*
Nursery 7,400 30% $51,000,000
Land (erosion) 120 19% $120,000
Structures     $4,000,000
Total   381,958   $77,620,000
Grand Total   651,514   $403,033,757

* Preliminary figures
** Survey not available
*** Misc. (includes structures, land erosion, and other crops such as: oriental veg.)
Contiguous counties include Collier, Hendry, Glades, Osceola, Brevard, and Monroe

October 25, 1999

The Honorable Jeb Bush
State of Florida
The Capitol, Plaza Level 05
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Dear Governor Bush:

The high winds and heavy rain resulting from Hurricane Irene on October 16-17 has inflicted heavy damage on South Florida nursery, fruits and winter vegetable crops and placed many family farms in economic jeopardy.

Winds of 70-80 mph and rainfall of 15-20 inches in a 48-hour period over the farming districts have destroyed an estimated 15-20 percent of the fresh citrus crops, 55-65 percent of the nursery inventory and 80-90 percent of the winter vegetable crops in the six-county area of Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River.

An early conservative estimate puts the loss of crops and farm infrastructure at nearly $400 million in the six counties alone. Damage survey work continues in contiguous counties and for aquaculture in Indian River County where sewage spillage continues to threaten the industry.

Dade County and the nursery industry appears to be the hardest hit. Crop losses are more than $225 million in Dade County. The Southeast nursery industry has suffered losses of more than $200 million, and fresh vegetable damage is more than $60 million.

South Florida farmers supply the nation with more than 50 percent of its winter vegetables so important to U.S. citizens health. It is imperative that all effort be made to assist the hard-hit farmers in re-establishing this important production as quickly as possible.

I would greatly appreciate your immediate contact with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to request that he declare an agriculture disaster for the six hard hit and contiguous counties to authorize all financial assistance available under various Federal programs.

Thank you for your leadership and efforts to enable Florida farmers to recover as rapidly as possible.

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For more information:

Bob Blankenship

(850) 488-3022

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