TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – South Florida farmers whose crops were withered by drought and fried by the heat may soon get some help, after Broward and Palm Beach counties were included in a disaster declaration by the US Department of Agriculture covering 27 Florida counties.

Palm Beach was on the disaster list. Broward County was included on a list of counties bordering the disaster area which also qualify for help.

Farmers can request cash to help cover losses, and disaster loans to help them get back in business. Each case will be reviewed by the feds, who will figure out how much each farmer lost and how much the government is willing to help.

The disaster declaration was made last week by Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsak, responding to a request by Governor Rick Scott. It covers losses by farmers starting January 1. It was made public Monday.

Florida suffered a significant drought which started late last year, and caused major problems in most of the state’s agricultural areas. In Palm Beach County, where sugar cane is the top crop, water restrictions and the drought could cause losses of up to $100 million, according to some grower estimates.

Despite the return of rainfall to Miami-Dade and much of Broward County, Palm Beach County has seen a drier start to the rainy season, and is still recovering from droughts in 2001, 2007, and 2009.

While Miami-Dade farmers also suffered from the drought, their losses were smaller because the county received more rainfall, and was not required to impose the tough water restrictions seen in other areas. Miami-Dade was not included in the federal declaration.

Farmers in the affected counties who want to request aid should contact their Farm Service Agency office.


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