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Financial assistance now available to Florida timber producers impacted by Hurricane Michael

K. William Boyer
Washington County News

SOUTHPORT – Registration for the Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant Program is now available to timber producers and forest landowners who suffered damage from Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program is managed by the Florida Division of Emergency Management in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Forest Service, who will provide technical assistance to forest landowners required to produce documentation to receive compensation for their loss.

To be eligible for the Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant Program (TRBG), a producer must:

  • Be the owner of record or the lessee who has rights to the timber crop at the time of application;
  • Have a minimum of 10 contiguous acres of non-industrial private forest land located in one of the eligible counties;
  • Have stands of timber that sustained a minimum of 25 percent loss due to Hurricane Michael;

Eligible counties include Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington.

One field of timber trees along Lee Farm Road in Calhoun County have been logged one year after Hurricane Michael destroyed much of the timber crop in North Florida.

Registration is the first step toward receiving block grant funds and should only take a few minutes to complete. The deadline to register is Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. For additional details and to register for the TRBG, visit www.FloridaDisaster.org/timber. Registrants can email questions to timber@em.myflorida.com or call the Timber Hotline at (850) 270-8317.

Background: Hurricane Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach as a Category 5 storm on October 10, 2018, bellowing through Florida with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph and leaving an estimated 500 million trees broken, uprooted, or blown over. The economic loss has been conservatively estimated at $1.3 billion for timber alone, accounting for most of the $1.5 billion loss in total Florida agricultural commodities. The hardest hit areas are some of the most forested counties in the state.

In November 2019, Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the USDA would make available $800 million in block grants to agricultural producers in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia affected by hurricanes Michael and Florence. The state block grants are part of a broader $3 billion disaster relief package to help producers recover from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. The Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant is the first-ever state block grant for timber producers from the USDA.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.