Federal disaster aid is being sought for South Florida farmers who said Monday that many fields remain under water more than a week after heavy rain triggered widespread flooding.
At a press conference called by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare flooded farmlands a disaster so farmers can apply for relief, including loans. Farmers say they’ve lost millions in crops, although the final tally is still being calculated.
A half-dozen farmers who attended the meeting also complained that water managers did too little in advance after forecasts called for heavy rain.
“We’ve been through worse and never had water standing for this long,” said farmer Mike Causely, who lost 300 acres of beans and sweet corn. He said low interest loans would not likely help: “You know what a loan is in our industry? Another rope to hang yourself with.”
On Dec. 3, the region was hit with heavy rain that lasted three days, becoming the wettest three-day period since 2000. Water managers tracking forecasts had started lowering water levels in canals, clearing vegetation and manning pumps round the clock to deal with the deluge. But when a second round of heavy rain hit two days later, the system backed up, flooding streets from Homestead to Kendall and leaving hundreds of acres of farmland in the middle of a winter growing season underwater.
Photo: Courtesy South Florida Water Management District