The TIMES received a call from a very excited Senator George Gainer last week in reference to a major signing by Governor Ron DeSantis to aid the agricultural producers in the wake of damages left by Hurricane Michael. Senator Gainer said, “This is historic for our ag industry and we couldn’t be prouder of Governor DeSantis for what he has done for the Panhandle since he took office.”
Senator Gainer was referring to Governor DeSantis activating the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support agricultural producers impacted by Hurricane Michael. The program will have $25 million to help agricultural producers prepare for the upcoming growing seasons as part of ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael.
The counties included are Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties. The application period opened Wednesday, May 15 and runs through June 30, 2019.
Governor DeSantis said, “Since day one, my administration has been laser-focused on making sure Floridians in Northwest Florida completely recover from Hurricane Michael. The activation of the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program will provide much-needed relief to Florida farmers whose crops were decimated by this storm and will help in our efforts to bring Northwest Florida back stronger than before.”
The press release went on to say, “The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) currently administers the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program with the Florida Small Business Development Center Network and Florida First Capital Finance Corporation to provide cash flow to businesses damaged by a disaster. The short-term, interest-free loans help bridge the gap between the time damage is incurred and when a producer secures other financial resources, including payment of crop insurance claims or federal disaster recovery appropriations.”
“We appreciate Governor DeSantis’ leadership as communities in the Florida Panhandle are continuing to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Michael,” said DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson. “This loan will provide agricultural producers in the impacted areas the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming growing seasons.”
Florida agricultural producers with land in production that has suffered physical damage and/or economic injury as a result of Hurricane Michael can apply for the short-term loans up to $200,000. To be eligible, the agricultural producer must have been established prior to Oct. 7, 2018.
“As agricultural producers are preparing for the upcoming growing seasons, we want them to know we are here to help walk them through the loan process as they pick up the pieces from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Michael,” said Mike Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network. “We appreciate Governor DeSantis for working to find solutions for these small businesses. It is a pleasure to partner with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to help small businesses throughout the Florida Panhandle.”
Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association President Jeff Snell applauded the Governor’s actions, “On behalf of the members of the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association, I would like to thank Governor DeSantis, Senator Gainer, Representative Brad Drake, Commissioners Clint Pate and Jim Peacock, the representatives from Florida Farm Bureau, the Jackson County Farm Bureau President Jeffrey Pittman, Bud Baggett, The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association members Andy Andreasen, Billy Bigham, Ken Godfrey and Mack Glass for all of their hard work and dedication to the ag community of Jackson County. Countless behind the scenes hours have been devoted to seeing this program come to life. This program will be instrumental to the continuation of the local ad industry until federal legislation is passed.”
Local farmer Bud Baggett was extremely pleased with the announcement by Governor DeSantis, “I thank Governor DeSantis for his diligence in looking after the agricultural community and I’d like to add a special thanks to Richard Pinksy for all of his help to arrange our meetings with Governor DeSantis and legislators in Tallahassee.”
To complete an application by the June 30, 2019 deadline, or for more information on the program, visit www.floridadisasterloan.org. For questions regarding the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 866-737-7232 or email . The phone line will be answered during regular business hours; all voice mails and emails will be responded to within 24 hours. Applications can be submitted beginning May 20th, 2019.