With the official end of the 2005 hurricane season, producers are just beginning to get back on track. Vegetable losses exceeded $300 million. Citrus losses approached $200 million. Tropical fruit got hit for $44 million in losses, most of that from Katrina.

Just like last year, the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association started working with key congressional staff, in concert with other ag organizations and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson’s office, to craft legislation for relief to affected growers. Hurricane Wilma struck at the heart of Florida’s production regions right in the middle of peak growing seasons. It was clear that substantial assistance was critical for producers.

Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Mario Dias-Balart, and the support of many other lawmakers, the proposed Agriculture Hurricane Recovery Act of 2005 would allow producers who experienced losses from this year’s devastating storms to apply for disaster assistance. Funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation would be used to implement a Crop Disaster Program that provides relief based on severity of losses — the higher the damage, the higher crop-loss assistance.

Additionally, the legislation includes provisions for emergency grants to help restore housing and services to migrant and seasonal farm workers who were displaced by the storms.

Even if final passage has to wait until January, the assistance will go a long way towards helping producers recover.

Hurricane relief

Florida citrus growers have teamed up with packers and retailers nationwide to raise funds for more than 50,000 of the state’s farm workers.

Donations of more than $204,000 collected through a special retail promotion will go to those hardest hit by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. Catholic Charities of Arcadia will receive $150,000 to assist in providing singles housing at the new Casa San Juan Bosco community project. And Redlands Migrant Christian Association will get $40,000 for its outstanding charter school in Immokalee. Local charities throughout the citrus growing areas of the state will receive the balance.

Florida citrus industry leaders sparked the original funding for these donations. Twenty-five cents from each carton of specially marked Florida oranges sold at participating retailers was donated to the Hurricane Farmworker Relief Fund.

Many thanks go to Florida Citrus Packers, citrus producers and the Florida Department of Citrus for their work to make this donation happen.