Chairman Johnson: Hurricane Ian

A month ago, none of us had hurricane recovery in our plans. We all know the risks of tropical weather season. Irma relief is not fully closed, and we all still play scenes of that event in our heads. Yet here we are. Another September surprise is the last thing we need.

Many of our growers are still in shock and trying to make decisions about the future of their businesses. That’s fair. That’s part of the cycle of going through a crisis, not to mention the normal uncertainties that come with a citrus season.

On varying levels, I think it is easy to say everyone in our industry is feeling the effects of Hurricane Ian and we’re all looking for answers. All these events have a different process and a different spin to how we get to recovery.

There is one thing that I know is solid in the Florida citrus industry today — between the Florida Department of Citrus, Florida Citrus Mutual, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, our regional associations and all of you, we have the firepower to persevere.

In the days leading up to the storm, FDOC and FCM were pulling out the old Irma files. Matt Joyner and Shannon Shepp were assembling teams to work through communications, making calls to prepare state and federal agencies for our potential needs, and opening dialogue among stakeholders before we were, literally, scattered in the wind and picking up our own pieces.

Ian wasn’t offshore of Florida’s east coast before citrus recovery became a daily topic of conversation with state and federal leaders. And every day since then, we’ve been assembling the information needed to generate our transparent and accurate ask for disaster relief.

I’ve heard a few folks say nothing is getting done. I don’t see it that way, at all. I see highly committed professionals pulling together everything we could possibly need and every resource we could tap to get relief as fast as possible. Official damage assessments are coming – we need them to be accurate, transparent and include easy validation for the agencies that can help us.

The collaboration happening inside AND outside of our groves is critical. We’ve seen it work before and there is absolutely every reason to believe strong minds and committed souls will make it happen now. We will do the work.

Steve Johnson is Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Florida Department of Citrus. He is the owner and general manager of Johnson Harvesting, Inc., based in Wauchula, FL.