Gov. Rick Scott and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam were in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to make the case for federal aid in the Sunshine State after Hurricane Irma swept through the state, causing extensive damage last month.
Scott and Putnam will tag-team in their efforts to push for federal aid to Florida after Hurricane Irma, which made two landfalls -- one in the Florida Keys and one in Marco Island -- in September.
Irma, a Category 4 storm, engulfed the state with heavy rains, high-speed winds and flash flooding in certain parts of the state, causing extensive damage to buildings and much of Florida’s natural resources.
Meetings with FEMA agents, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as well as a meeting with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry were all on tap for the governor on Wednesday.
A focus of Scott and Putnam’s meetings with the Florida delegation and other federal officials will be securing much-needed money for Florida’s agriculture industry, which suffered $2.5 billion in losses during Irma -- and that’s just a preliminary estimate.
Putnam said he expects the damage dollar amount to only increase as state officials take a closer look at just how much damage the storm caused after all.
“Florida agriculture took it on the chin as Hurricane Irma pummeled the state, and the $2.5 billion in agricultural damages is only an initial assessment,” Putnam said in a statement. “We’re likely to see even greater economic losses as we account for loss of future production and the cost to rebuild infrastructure.”
The governor and Putnam will also meet with Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas.
Florida’s citrus industry took the biggest hit from Hurricane Irma, with preliminary estimates finding the storm devastated the state’s largest agricultural industry with nearly $761 million worth of damage.
Recent estimates found nearly a 70 percent loss of the state’s orange trees, many of which were uprooted or flooded from the storm.
The citrus industry is important to Florida, which is the nation's leader in orange juice production. Worldwide, Florida ranks second to Brazil in orange production, with the citrus industry pumping over $8 billion to the state each year.
Greenhouses, nurseries and floraculture were also heavily damaged from the storm, with preliminary estimates finding nearly $625 million in damage from the storm, which hovered over the state for days before heading north and dissipating.
Florida’s sugar had the third-highest amount of damage from Irma. The department estimated the sugar business suffered $383 million in losses.