Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam on Vegetable Hurricane Damage

Abigail Taylor Legislative, Top Posts, Vegetables, Weather

Florida Agriculture Commissioner holds a press conference after giving opening remarks at the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting.

The Florida Senate Agriculture Committee met Oct. 12 in Tallahassee to discuss hurricane damage. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gave the opening remarks at the meeting, then held a press conference immediately afterward.

In his comments, Putnam expressed his deep concern for all agricultural industries following Hurricane Irma and now Hurricane Nate. In what Putnam called the “cruel irony of nature,” Hurricane Nate recently followed Hurricane Irma and hit the last bits of the state that Irma did not.

Putnam said the path of Hurricane Irma could not have been deadlier to Florida agriculture. Many sectors of Florida agriculture were impacted by Irma, including vegetables. Luckily, most vegetable growers had not put their crops in the ground yet. However, the beds and plastic mulch had been laid, putting those investments at risk in the storm.

For the farms that were heavily impacted by Irma, their growing season may be delayed, which will push their marketing season back as well. This is especially concerning to Putnam, given that the holiday season is right around the corner. “The fresh vegetables that are typically on the plate on Thanksgiving won’t be there this November,” Putnam said. “To a substantial degree, many of them will not be there in December for the holiday season.”

Regarding possible price inflation of vegetables in the coming months, Putnam said consumers can expect vegetable prices to rise because of the storm. He added, however, the only way vegetable prices would not rise would be if a mass amount of imports came into the Florida market, which would be good for the consumer, but damaging to Florida’s economy.

Putnam said there is not much currently available to help these growers in need, but there are bills and programs in the works. Unlike after the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, any relief funding now requires an act of congress.

Putnam is very optimistic that growers will eventually receive the relief they need. Until then, he knows that the Florida growers will continue to be resilient. “Washington never works as quickly as we would like, but I can assure all farmers and ranchers that we’re working day and night to get them the help they need,” Putnam concluded.

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Abigail Taylor

Multi-media journalist for AgNet Media

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