WASHINGTON—Rep. Scott Franklin (FL-18), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) on Tuesday introduced the Block Grant Assistance Act, a critical bill to ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can provide needed relief to agriculture producers devastated by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. This bill will provide the Agriculture Secretary needed authority to provide block grants to the state of Florida to assist producers affected by the two hurricanes. Reps. Franklin and Wasserman Schultz co-led the House version of the bill. Sen. Scott introduced the Senate version concurrently with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as a co-sponsor.

“The Florida citrus industry is synonymous with the Sunshine State and the backbone of many of our rural communities,” said Rep. Franklin. “Between an extreme hurricane season and ongoing issues such as citrus greening, our resilient citrus growers continue to navigate significant challenges. It’s critical that we provide immediate support so Americans can continue to enjoy the staples our domestic citrus industry provides.”

“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,” said Sen. Scott. “Folks in the Sunshine State are still picking up the pieces, and I’ve continued to work closely with USDA, FEMA and SBA 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. Our Block Grant Assistance Act is a step in the right direction to ensure Florida’s agriculture industry gets the help they need.”

“A Florida citrus comeback cannot be waylaid by hurricanes and greening, so I’m proud to help ensure that our U.S. Department of Agriculture has the back of growers and processors as they rebuild, replant and revive the harvests that fuel America’s breakfast table,” said. Rep. Wasserman Schultz.

“Thanks to Rep. Franklin and Sen. Scott for fighting for Florida’s citrus growers,” said Matt Joyner, president of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Just as the industry was on the verge of a comeback, Hurricanes Ian and Nicole dealt us another blow. The Block Grant Assistance Act will enable Florida’s citrus growers to rebuild and replant so we can continue to harvest and produce America’s favorite breakfast juice.”

“The statewide toll of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole on the Florida agricultural industry was devastating,” said Mike Joyner, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. “The supplemental disaster relief funding in the omnibus bill secured critically needed support for the industry’s recovery efforts. However, it failed to recognize the full impact and reach those who needed it most. The introduction of this bill will provide flexibility to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to better address grower needs. We are grateful to Congressman Franklin and Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, who heard the industry’s concerns and are championing this needed change.”

More than 90 percent of all Florida citrus production was impacted by tropical storms in 2022, totaling 375,302 acres. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services expects these devastating losses to cost the industry between $416 million and $675 million. Florida citrus generates $6.8 billion in annual revenue and supports 33,000 jobs. In 2018, Congress gave USDA the authority to issue block grants to states to assist with recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma. In conjunction with the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant (CRBG) Program was created to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The CRBG program was widely successful in aiding the Florida citrus industry.

The full text of the Block Grant Assistance Act can be accessed by clicking here.

Organizations supporting this legislation include: Florida Citrus Mutual and the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.