Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that payments begin today to producers impacted by hurricanes under the Florida Hurricane Disaster Assistance Program. This program, announced by President Bush on Aug. 27, 2004, financially assists agricultural producers who suffered citrus, fruit, vegetable, nursery and related damages due to Hurricanes Charley, Frances and/or Jeanne during August and September of 2004.

"The President promised to expedite relief to Florida and he has delivered on that promise," said Veneman. "Today, USDA is beginning to issue payments to Florida producers just 75 days after the first hurricane struck. This financial relief, amounting to more than $500 million, will provide a much-needed boost to Florida's agriculture industry."

Payments begin today for producers whose applications have been approved by USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) local county committees. Payments for this assistance are authorized under Section 32 of the Act of Aug. 24, 1935, which allows the Secretary to implement programs to help restore producers' purchasing power.

Payments to citrus producers are based on damages generally correlating to the distance from the eyes of the hurricanes and are for production loss, tree loss, rehabilitation and cleanup costs. Nursery crop payments are equal to 25 percent of the actual dollar value of inventory loss and a flat rate of $250 per eligible acre for cleanup. Fruit and vegetable producers must suffer a minimum of a 50 percent crop loss. Per-acre payments are based on the type of production practices utilized by producers.

More information on sign-up, eligibility and payments is available at local Florida county offices and in FSA's Florida Hurricane Disaster Assistance Program fact sheet, available online at