In Florida, politics and storms don’t mix

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sept. 15 sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, requesting help for Sunshine State agriculture, in the wake of Hurricane Idalia.

This was reported on Sept. 17 by Danny McAuliffe, a reporter for

McAuliffe indicates that DeSantis, a Republican Presidential candidate to for the 2024 election “put politics aside for the moment” to ask for federal help for Florida to recover from “extensive agricultural damage from Hurricane Idalia.” In late August, Idalia, a Category 4 storm, made landfall in Florida at the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico. 

This is DeSantis’ second letter to the feds, marking a pivot toward federal-state collaboration, McAuliffe notes after DeSantis snubbed President Joe Biden during the latter’s post-Idalia visit to Florida.

DeSantis seeks a USDA Disaster Declaration for Florida counties affected by Idalia along with “any and all” other assistance from other USDA programs, including those administered by the Farm Service Agency. 

DeSantis’ request came a week after Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson asked Vilsack for flexibility in deadlines and sign-up periods for ag-assistance programs, according to

It was also reported that DeSantis and Biden had, before Idalia’s landfall, talked by phone. When Biden toured Idalia’s destruction, DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern billed the Governor’s absence as a logistics issue.

“In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts,” Redfern told media.

“But that hadn’t prevented DeSantis from meeting with Biden a year ago following Hurricane Ian — before DeSantis was a national candidate,” McAuliffe notes. 

DeSantis, who declared a state emergency and tasked agencies with surveying damage, said early damage data is troubling.

“Initial reports show significant impacts to the timber industry, cattle and dairy farms, the poultry industry, peanut growers, and processing plants,” DeSantis wrote. “In addition to crop and livestock losses, there is catastrophic loss to infrastructure.”

DeSantis also stressed to Secretary Vilsack that Florida is responsible for $7.3 billion in agricultural products annually.

Prior hurricanes left large bruises in the Sunshine State economy, according to McAuliffe. “Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 storm that cut through Southwest and Central Florida last year, resulted in more than $1 billion in total damage to agriculture. When Hurricane Michael swept through Florida’s Panhandle in 2018, it too carried a billion-dollar price tag for Florida agriculture.” 

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