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Federal aid comes 'too little too late' for South Florida farmers

Farmers can now apply for $16 billion coronavirus food assistance program
Posted at 10:31 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 22:31:49-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Federal aid is now available to help farmers hurting amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Thursday it's "too little too late" for many of them.

Beginning this week, farmers can apply for financial support from the federal government as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $16 billion coronavirus food assistance program.

But Fried said she's concerned it won't be enough to offset the lost revenue for farmers throughout Florida.

"We really needed some of those dollars weeks ago," she told WPTV NewsChannel 5.

Fried said Florida farmers faced more than $500 million in produce losses because of the pandemic. She said the federal money's "not even close" to filling the gap.

Kohl Brown, vice president of sales at J&J Family of Farms in Loxahatchee, echoed those sentiments.

"We're not going to capture the profits that we expected," Brown said.

J&J Family of Farms is ending its harvest season with little return.

The impact can be felt at other farms throughout Palm Beach County, including the popular Bedner's Farm Fresh Market.

"I don't think a lot of people understood how much agriculture is in Palm Beach County," Marie Bedner said.

Bedner's family-owned business was forced to shift operations to a curbside produce box program. She said hers and other farm businesses have a long road to recovery.

Farmers can begin to register for the federal aid. Once the application is received, payments are expected within a week.