Citrus industry gets some post-hurricane help

After 42 years in the citrus business, Steve Sorrells has seen his share of ups and downs. But lately there's been more downs than ever. 

"They're small and they just don't look like a healthy," complained Sorrells. 

Citrus canker and greening have been crippling his crop for several years.   Then came Hurricane Irma which dealt an even nastier blow. 

"There was fruit blown off the trees, some trees that were blown over," he said. 

After a hurricane passes, farmers say, it can take anywhere from three months or more to learn what damaged their crops.  Right now Sorrells said they've picked half the amount of fruit compared to last year.  He says Irma is to blame. 

"It's then just having to wait and see what you end up with," he continued. 

Some citrus growers estimate they lost 80 to 90 percent of their crop after Hurricane Irma.  Sorrells remains the largest citrus grower in Manatee County with 5,000 acres of groves, but replacing what he lost can dip into profits. 

"One of our biggest costs and expenses is having to replant and bring our groves back," he explained. 

Congressman Vern Buchanan helped pass the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act. The bill provides tax incentives to farmers. 

"It’ll be able to add additional capital so they can replant, but many areas of the state have lost all their crop so this will give them incentive to attract money or capital and keep more of what they earn so they can replant,” said Congressman Buchanan. “It's just my number, over a $100-million additional value to this industry.”

That could mean more jobs and eventually more produce for an industry that struggles to hold on. 

"I think it will put out a quality product that will make Florida proud," Sorrells added.