Help is on the way for Miami-Dade County's frost-besieged farm operators, say county officials, and that's good news for the local economy.
Both the county and the state are seeking disaster declarations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the aftermath of this winter's crop-killing severe cold weather.
During a press conference in Homestead Wednesday, County Manager George Burgess and county Agricultural Manager Charles LaPradd told local growers that the USDA is close to issuing a statewide disaster declaration.
It can't come too soon. The record cold snaps hit tender young vegetables in South Miami-Dade fields when they were most vulnerable. Damaged crops include green beans, squash, zucchini, bananas, papaya and boniato.
So far, estimates of the losses in Miami-Dade alone are pegged at $54 million. This is the second year that cold temperatures have hit our agricultural industry, which lost about $280 million last year when the thermometer dipped to unseasonable lows.
Bitter cold snaps are a serious economic threat this far south. Miam-Dade's agriculture industry employs more than 20,000 people and contributes more than $2.7 billion to the local economy, hardly chump change.
The disaster declaration will allow growers who qualify to apply for low-interest loans and grants.
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