Hurricane Irma devastates Florida citrus growers, early estimates say 75 percent of crops damaged

(Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane Irma has been devastating for Florida’s citrus growers. 

Early estimates indicate the state’s citrus industry took a big hit, with 75 percent of crops damaged.

Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are traveling around the state looking at damage. On Wednesday, the two visited Polk County, meeting at Story Groves in Lake Wales.

Owner Kyle Story estimated he had 40 percent of his citrus crop on the ground at that particular grove after the storm.

“To come out and see this after we had rebounded and had a great crop and a good year of weather, it’s disheartening,” Story told News Channel 8.

Florida citrus farmers said they need help in the form of money and tax breaks to replant new trees.

“We don’t pride ourselves on asking for help, but when it’s absolutely necessary like in this situation, we’re going to have to do that,” Story said.

The senators have already been working on legislation to provide tax breaks to farmers. They said Wednesday that they hoped the devastation would give the plan some momentum.

“We have been working already on a tax rebate that they would fill out. Then, if you replant a tree, farmers would immediately expense, or be able to write off the tax, you know the cost of doing that.  Hopefully now we will be able to get that done given this impact,” Senator Marco Rubio (R) Florida told News Channel 8.

According to Florida Citrus, Mutual East and South Florida have been hit the worst, with some farmers losing both trees and crops.

Some farmers have reported they lost 100 percent of their crops.

This is yet another blow for the $8 billion a year industry that has already been devastated by Citrus Greening.

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