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BARTOW – Florida Citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma are eligible now for short-term, interest-free working capital loans as part of a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program activated by Gov. Rick Scott aimed at helping the industry recover quickly.

The program, which is a subset of the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, is open to qualified citrus businesses that experienced physical and/or economic damage during the storm.

“Governor Scott did a great job of identifying the immediate need some growers are experiencing. This is a lifeline to get growers cash flow while we sort through insurance claims of disaster relief,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “The program was designed to be a streamlined process for quick relief without many of the requirements other loan programs may have.”

The loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between Hurricane Irma and longer-term recovery resources, which could include federal disaster assistance.

Growers in every citrus-producing county were impacted by Hurricane Irma with losses ranging from 30 to 70 percent, depending on the region. Citrus groves in southwest Florida were hit the hardest with some growers reporting 100 percent fruit loss and uprooted trees. The USDA estimated a Florida Orange crop this season at 54 million boxes, 27 percent lower than 2016-17. However, that number is in question, with many growers projecting even lower production this season.

For questions regarding the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, growers should contact the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network Headquarters at disaster@floridasbdc.org or (850) 898-3489. They can also visitfloridadisasterloan.org/citrus-growers/citrus-emergency-loan-program/.

About the Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Department of Citrus is an executive agency of Florida government charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry.  Its activities are funded by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels.  The industry employs 45,000 people, provides an annual economic impact of $8.6 billion to the state, and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues that help support Florida’s schools, roads and health care services. For more information about the Florida Department of Citrus, please visit FloridaCitrus.org.