The impact to over 2,000 local businesses affected by the 2015 infestation of Oriental Fruit Fly continues to be felt. Eighty five square miles of the Redlands was quarantined to combat the destructive pest which attacks hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables. Growers, nurseries/stock dealers,
fruit stands, lawn maintenance, packing houses, and harvesters were affected. Florida's agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, declared a state of emergency and ordered fruit stripped and destroyed in areas where the flies had been found.
Losses were extensive, as most businesses don't have the cash flow to
sustain such significant losses.
Congressman Carlos Curbelo has continuted to work on finding assistance for these businesses. Curbelo recently stated, “The 2015 quarantine on South Dade’s farming community took a toll on the local farmers who were unable to bring their crops to market. Though the quarantine was necessary to protect the rest of the region from the invasive Oriental Fruit Fly, our growers took a hit from which they have yet to fully recover. As our farming community works to put food on our table, they deserve for us to have their backs when disaster strikes. I’m proud to lead with my colleagues in this effort and grateful for their support of South Dade’s farming community.”
Curbelo has taken the lead in seaking funding to assist the affected farmers. Last week correspondence was sent to the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration, & Related Agencies -
House Appropriations Committee. It reads -
"On August 26, 2015, several Oriental Fruit Flies were found in South Miami-Dade County, Florida. The discovery of this pest was cause for serious concern, as the very destructive Oriental Fruit Fly has been known to infest over 430 kinds of fruits and vegetables, including main crops grown in Florida like avocado, mango, tomato, squash, and peppers. Unlike other states, Florida’s farm production provides essential produce during, and immediately following, each winter season, and the spread of this pest would have a devastating impact on our nation’s food supply.
As determined by federal and state officials, on October 1, 2015, a quarantine was established to cover 98 square-miles in South Miami-Dade County, which lasted until February 13, 2016. Through the dedicated work of officials at USDA and Florida Department of Agriculture, there have been no new discoveries of Flies since October 10, 2015, and the quarantine has been lifted.
While the quarantine was absolutely necessary to ensure complete eradication of the Fly, it had a devastating effect on the farmers located in the designated area. They were no longer able to bring their crop to market or have refrained from even planting in the first place this season. The crops are grown year-round and the agriculture industry in Florida contributes $120 billion to the state’s economy, but those farmers impacted in the affected area will face economic hardships for years to come.
To address this issue, we respectfully request inclusion of the following Committee Report language to accompany the FY18 Agriculture Appropriation.
“The Committee strongly urges the Farm Service Agency to make funds available to those farmers who were negatively impacted by an Oriental Fruit Fly quarantine from October 2015-February 2016. The farmers, who were unable to bring their crop to market, sustained devastating losses, although the quarantine was necessary and successful in eradicating the Oriental Fruit Fly pest. Because Crop Insurance or similar products do not apply in instances of state or federal declared quarantines, the impacted farmers are in dire need of relief. The Committee believes it is within the FSA purview to make funds available to the impacted farmers”.
The letter is signed by Congressman Curbelo, as well as by Rep. Dennis A. Ross, Rep. Ted S. Yoho, DVM, Rep. Frederica Wilson, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.