The Florida congressional delegation met with Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam Wednesday to discuss hurricane relief efforts after Hurricane Irma, especially for the decimated citrus crops.
The citrus industry has lost about $760 million, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, who introduced the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act of 2017 in January that will be on the U.S. House floor later in the month. The bill aims to allow farmers to replant trees with the help of outside investors so long as they maintain the majority of the ownership of the crop, rather than footing the entire price alone.
The total agricultural loss was estimated in the $2.5 billion range.
This week, the House is expected to consider a $36.5 billion disaster aid bill, of which about half would go toward refreshing the National Flood Insurance Program.
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“Hurricane Irma upended communities and devastated the livelihoods of so many across our great state,” Buchanan said in a press release. “We cannot act quickly enough to provide the relief they need to rebuild and recover.”
The meeting wasn’t without tense moments. The Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau reported that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was critical of Scott’s response to debris cleanup.
The congresswoman said that she had contacted the governor for help, including a letter to his office dated Oct. 6, but did not hear back, the Times reported. Scott said he did not have any record of her trying to contact him. According to the Times, Wasserman Schultz wondered why Scott’s administration was not allowing cities to pay more than what had been arranged with contractors.
“I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers, not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster,” Scott said, according to the Times.