Florida Could See The Nation's First USDA Block Grants For Timber Industry Recovery

Nov 5, 2019

A common sight in Panama City and much of the Florida Panhandle, trees snapped by Hurricane Michael line streets and highways one year after the storm caused catastrophic damage to the region.
Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Florida Forest Service director Jim Karels  says there’s a good chance state block grants will be approved to help North Florida’s ailing timber industry. The subject-specific grants have never been given out for timber anywhere in the nation by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Similar grants were approved to help the state’s citrus industry following Hurricane Irma, which Karels says is a good indicator that timber grants are within reach.

The Forest Service and other agencies are asking for $370 million dollars to offset timber production losses from Hurricane Michael. Karels says applying landowners will be categorized by acreage and type of timber grown.

“Then as a landowner, that certain amount you would be written a production loss check per acres under that category,” Karels explained to the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday. “It won’t make a landowner whole. It’s really based on probably less than 50 percent of the value of what was there. But it will give them funding to help reforest, get the land cleaned up.”

The state is also asking for an additional $230 million in reforestation money from the USDA.

Karels says his agency would work in tandem with the governor’s office and Department of Emergency Management in overseeing the grants. He thinks the state could hear back from the USDA within the next week.