Washington D.C. — Today, U.S. Reps. Scott Franklin (FL-18), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Darren Soto (FL-09) and Kat Cammack (FL-03) introduced the Restore Agricultural Investment, Stability and Expansion (RAISE) Act of 2023, which would provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the standing authority to help American farmers and growers recover after natural disasters by issuing block grants. This bill better positions this farm-friendly measure to reach President Joe Biden’s desk and become law through the upcoming Farm Bill that Congress is expected to consider.
“After extreme hurricane seasons like the one Florida experienced last year, growers cannot afford to navigate bureaucratic obstacles to get the help they need,” said Rep. Franklin. “I’m pleased that earlier this month the House unanimously passed our bill to give the USDA block grant authority to expedite disaster relief for agricultural producers still recovering from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. This commonsense initiative would make this authority permanent ensuring the federal government can respond as quickly as possible to future emergencies.”
“Congress needs to have the back of America’s farmers, and I’m proud to work across the aisle to make sure the crops and agricultural resources that fuel this great nation and its families are protected from increasingly extreme weather threats, something our own citrus industry faces in Florida,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “From timber to food on our table tops, the federal government needs every tool at hand to help farmers recover from natural disasters.”
“Glad to join Reps. Franklin, Wasserman Schultz, and Soto on this effort to support our Florida producers,” said Rep. Cammack. “When extreme weather threatens our crops, as is often the case in the Sunshine State, we must be prepared to help our farmers recover and continue the important work of feeding our nation.”
“In Central Florida, our farmers, ranchers, and growers have struggled after devastating hurricanes,” said Rep. Soto. “As these natural disasters get stronger, we must work to ensure that they have the resources to recover, maintain their livelihoods, and keep feeding America.”
More than 90 percent of all Florida citrus production was impacted by hurricanes in 2022, totaling 375,302 acres. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services expects these devastating losses to cost the industry as much as $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 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 helping spur recovery for the Florida citrus industry.
This comes on the heels of gaining momentum in June when the House passed H.R. 662-- the Block Grants Assistance Act led by Reps. Franklin and Wasserman Schultz. This bill would allow USDA to issue block grants from the disaster funding Congress passed in response to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. H.R. 662 was supported the entire Florida delegation and received unanimous support on the House floor.
This time, Reps. Franklin and Wasserman Schultz are teaming up with Reps. Soto and Cammack to give the USDA permanent block grant authority to direct emergency relief dollars as quickly as possible so high value crops like citrus can recover after future natural disasters.
Full text of this legislation can be found by clicking here.