Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick has expressed his appreciation for the decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis to authorize a major state loan program for farm families struggling with recovery from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Michael.
“We thank Governor DeSantis for his bold leadership in initiating this program,” Hoblick said. “Six months after the storm crushed the region, many Panhandle farmers and ranchers are still in desperate need of assistance.
“Governor DeSantis has stepped up to lend a hand for families threatened with the loss of their livelihoods. We are profoundly grateful that he has answered Florida Farm Bureau’s call for help at this time of great need.”
DeSantis announced the establishment of the temporary loan program on May 15 during the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach. Under its terms, applicants can borrow up to $200,000 for use in rebuilding and restoring agricultural operations. Farm families will have two years to repay the money they receive and will pay no interest on the debt.
Farmers in the Panhandle region echoed the Farm Bureau leader’s praise for the Governor’s action. Jeff Pittman, a fourth-generation grower in Jackson County, said a no-interest loan could be the key to financial survival for some families. “Restoring a farm after a hurricane like this one is a long-term task,” Pittman said. “You first have to recover your capacity to produce something, then you have to grow it so you can sell it.
“I thank the Governor for his initiative,” Pittman added. “I know a lot of my neighbors will be thankful that our state’s chief executive has not forgotten the tragedy we have experienced here.”
Calhoun County farmer Henry McCrone said the program is a welcome support. “I am pleased that the Governor has demonstrated his commitment to assist us,” McCrone said. “This is good news for agriculture in Northwest Florida.”
According to a report by researchers at the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, crop, animal and animal product losses due to Hurricane Michael totaled $138 million. Storm-related destruction to timber and forestlands has cost at least $1.3 billion.
“We look forward to working with the Governor during this period of rebuilding and restoration,” Hoblick said. “Our farm families now have an additional, practical tool to use as they recover from this unprecedented natural disaster.”