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Rubio, Colleagues Invite USDA Officials To Tour Agricultural Damage In Florida Panhandle Following Hurricane Michael

Oct 30, 2018 | Press Releases

Miami, FL – Today, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), were joined by U.S. Representatives Neal Dunn (R-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Al Lawson (D-FL) in inviting U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue, and Under Secretaries Northey and Hubbard to tour agricultural damage in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Michael. The lawmakers also requested that USDA continue its important recovery work with state and local partners, and to demonstrate the Department’s commitment to Florida’s impacted farmers, ranchers, and timber harvesters.  Early estimates project that agriculture and timber losses in the state as a result of Hurricane Michael exceed $1.2 billion. Rubio, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, previously hosted Secretary Purdue for a tour of damages after Hurricane Irma. 
The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We want to thank the Department for working with the state to ensure that all Floridians in need will be able to access nutritious foods as they work to recover their livelihoods and communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The quick and effective rollout of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster nutrition assistance is critical to sustaining life, just as USDA’s other recovery programs are essential to allow farmers, ranchers, and timber harvesters to inject dollars back into the local economy to accelerate recovery.

Many of the counties, crops, and timberlands in the Panhandle were impacted in 2017 by Hurricane Irma, and have subsequently been decimated by Hurricane Michael. More than ever, folks in these communities need the reassurance that their government has not forgotten them. Following Hurricane Irma, you toured some of the hardest hit disaster areas and met with citrus producers to learn from their unique situation. We are also aware that you have already visited areas in Georgia to witness Hurricane Michael’s devastating impacts on the state’s agricultural operations. As such, we welcome you, Under Secretary Bill Northey, and Under Secretary James Hubbard, to tour the devastation in Florida and learn from impacted stakeholders.

Agricultural and silvicultural production are among the main drivers of economic opportunity across the inland regions of Florida’s Panhandle. If many of these already distressed communities are to survive, they will require uniquely tailored recovery support from USDA. We urge you to continue USDA’s important recovery work with state and local partners, and to demonstrate the Department’s commitment to Panhandle farmers, ranchers, and timber harvesters. We look forward to working with you and your under secretaries. 
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Timeline of Rubio Actions Related to Hurricane Michael:

  • On October 29, 2018 Senator Rubio joined the entire Florida delegation in urging Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to restore Tyndall Air Force Base after it was devastated by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 26, 2018, Senators Rubio, and Nelson were joined by Representatives Dunn, Gaetz, and Lawson in requesting FEMA Administrator Brock Long quickly approve the State of Florida’s request for direct housing assistance for areas hit by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 24, 2018, Senator Rubio, Nelson were joined by Representatives Dunn, Gaetz, and Lawson in urging Secretary Ross to approve the Governor’s request for a federal fishery resource disaster declaration due to Hurricane Michael’s impacts on the Florida Panhandle and its fishing communities.
  • On October 22, 2018, Rubio urged Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, to repair and restore the F-22 Raptors damaged in Hurricane Michael to mission capable status as soon as possible.
  • On October 22, 2018, Rubio encouraged FEMA Administrator Brock Long to implement recommendations outlined in a report by the Office of Inspector General in order to help Florida repair and rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael, and future storms.
  • On October 16, 2018, Rubio urged Secretaries Carson, Mnuchin, and Director Mulvaney to provide federal relief for Floridians impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 16, 2018, Rubio met with Franklin County and Gulf County officials to discuss the ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Michael.     
  • On October 15, 2018, Rubio surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Michael and met with local officials in Marianna Florida.
  • On October 15, 2018, Rubio urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to assist Florida schools affected by Hurricane Michael, particularly, by quickly approving Project SERV applications, which are critical to recovery efforts
  • On October 15, 2018, Senators Rubio and Nelson, with members of the Florida delegation, sent a letter urging FEMA Administrator Brock Long to approve Florida Governor Rick Scott’s request to initiate the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for the remaining 13 counties impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 12, 2018, Rubio surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.
  • On October 12, 2018, Rubio and Nelson with Rep. Neal Dunn urged Secretary Wilson and General Goldfein to expedite repair and restoration operations at Tyndall Air Force Base, which was critically impacted during Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 11,2018, Rubio and Nelson urged Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie to authorize increased outreach efforts and benefits assistance for Florida veterans impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 11, 2018, FEMA Administrator Brock Long briefed Rubio on damage caused by Hurricane Michael.
  • On October 10, 2018, ahead of Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Rubio urgedAttorney General Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig to assist communities affected by the storm.  
  • On October 10, 2018, following Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Rubio, Nelson and Florida Representatives urged President Donald Trump to approve Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration. Today, the President approved the State of Florida’s major disaster declaration.
  • On October 9, 2018, Rubio joined Senator Nelson and Florida Representatives in urging President Trump to approve Florida Governor Rick Scott’s request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Michael.