Grants approved for farmers devastated by Hurricane Michael

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says about 550 million trees were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Michael. (WJHG/WECP)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Timber farmers impacted by Hurricane Michael are getting a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Friday the department has allocated $380.7 million in federal block grant funding for farmers devastated by Hurricane Michael.

The application process for timber producers to get the grant money will be finalized in the next few weeks.

“This funding is a huge victory for Florida’s timber producers. Since January, we’ve been working closely with USDA to secure relief for our timber industry, whose resilience in the year following Hurricane Michael has been extraordinary,” Fried said. “In the coming weeks, our priority will be moving this funding forward, so that timber producers can have checks in hand and trees in the ground.”

Fried says timber is the leading industry in the Florida panhandle and lost $1.3 billion in crops after Hurricane Michael. She says about 550 million trees, weighing 72 million tons were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

“It’s great news that USDA is sending $380.7 million in block grants to Florida to cover losses of timber and irrigation. Hurricane Michael decimated Northwest Florida’s timber industry, putting the livelihoods and financial futures of countless Floridians in jeopardy,” Senator Marco Rubio said. “Timber is a long-term business because trees take years to mature, but it only took a matter of hours for Hurricane Michael to set the industry back decades. I remain committed to assisting the entire Northwest Florida community in their recovery from this tragic storm and will continue my work to help the timber industry get back on its feet. I have not forgotten what occurred just one year ago, and I will not allow my colleagues in Congress to forget either.”

“The timber industry is vital to North Florida and unfortunately it took a hard-hit last year. Secretary Perdue’s announcement is welcome news. Our Florida foresters are our best environmental stewards and their livelihood depends on smart and sustainable conservation practices,” said Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. “These block grants will provide much-needed relief. I was happy to work with colleagues in Congress and Secretary Perdue to ensure that the necessary resources flow to North Florida to revitalize our timber industry.”

“This is a great day for our timber farmers who were devastated by Hurricane Michael,” said Governor DeSantis. “Since January, I’ve worked closely with President Trump and Secretary Purdue to ensure that our farmers were receiving as much assistance as possible. Fortunately, we were able to secure nearly half of the entire allocation for three states. Now that this funding has been awarded, we look forward to helping these farmers recover, replant and rebuild.”

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