A post-Irma look at the state’s agricultural sector

Nov 01, 17 A post-Irma look at the state’s agricultural sector


It will take time, but Florida’s agriculture sector will recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. State Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia) delivered that assessment in his “State of the Industry” remarks during the opening luncheon for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s 74th annual convention in Amelia Island.

FFVA Board Chairman Paul Orsenigo and Convention Chairman David Hill welcomed more than 420 attendees to the convention and invited them to help the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) provide immediate basic living essentials and temporary housing needs to farmworker families affected by Hurricane Irma. Monsanto will donate $50,000 toward the $100,000 goal and is challenging FFVA members to contribute a similar amount.

Sonia Tighe, director of membership and executive director of the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, introduced the Class 7 members of the Emerging Leader Development Program, whose sustaining sponsor is DowDupont.

Later during the lunch, Emily Buckley, a Class 6 graduate, explained how the leadership program helps participants grow personally and professionally. “We have learned so much about the farm industry, while building relationships that will last a lifetime,” she said.

Raburn, an FFVA member, also emphasized the importance of education for the state’s agricultural future, noting the industry’s close ties with the University of Florida and other educational institutions.  “A high-quality workforce is essential for our growers, ranchers and producers, and we need to make a high quality educational experience available to everyone,” he said.

Before Raburn’s state-of-the-industry address, Hill thanked attendees for taking time from their Irma recovery efforts to attend this important annual convention. “The past two weeks have tested our endurance, but we will work through this challenge, adapt and move forward,” he said. State-of-the-industry

Raburn emphasized that the impact of Irma cannot be understated. “The wind and rain touched every segment of our industry,” he said. “Even though the storm has passed, Irma will haunt us for months or years to come.”

Particularly hard-hit were citrus growers, who were enjoying a promising forecast after years of battling greening, Raburn said. Then, Irma uprooted trees, left fruit on the ground and water standing in the groves. About 70 to 80 percent of the production in South Florida and almost 100 percent in Southwest Florida was lost to the storm, he said.

Avocado trees were ripped in half, nurseries were stripped of their covering, sugar cane was blown to the ground and many dairy farms were without power and feed for several days, Raburn said.

“Because of the damage and the delays in planting, many national markets won’t be able to enjoy as much of Florida’s natural bounty as we hoped,” Raburn said. “But resiliency is our industry’s middle name. We rebound after difficult times, and we will continue to do so. Agriculture is our way of life and we are dedicated to providing a safe and affordable food supply for all Americans.”

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