Emergency Money for Farm and Business Owners Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Emergency Money for Farm and Business Owners Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Workers clearing debris

FCA Fence crew volunteers cleared debris to restore fences along highways in Jackson County. Photo credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS Extension

Over the past month every business in the impact zone of Hurricane Michael has felt the anguish of anticipating large expenses that no one had budgeted for.  There are a wide range of disaster programs to support both small businesses and farming operations.  One of the greatest challenges, however, is the immediate need for cash to get an operation going again.  For farmers, the are several disaster programs that provide 75% cost share on things like debris removal, livestock fence repair, and timber planting.  The challenge is that you have to pay the expenses first and then turn in the receipts for reimbursement.  Whether you need to hire extra labor, contractors, rent special equipment, or make immediate purchases, you may need some cash to get started while you secure the longer-term financing needed to cover theses unexpected expenses.  All of the recovery tasks seem overwhelming, but at least there are a number of agencies available to provide assistance.  The hard part is making sure people are aware wide range of services that are available to help with disaster recovery.  Thus the point of this article, there is a new program available for a short period of time worth getting more information about.

On October 12, Governor Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program:

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program supports small businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced physical or economic damage during Hurricane Michael. The application period runs through December 7, 2018.

Governor Scott said, “The damage we have seen from Hurricane Michael is indescribable and unprecedented for the Panhandle. We are aggressively working to restore power in these communities so that our small businesses can get back on their feet. We will do everything we can to help our small businesses – that truly are the heart of the Panhandle. The small business bridge loan program will help small business owners and communities get back up and running and I encourage all affected business owners to apply today.”

DEO administers the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network to provide cash flow to businesses damaged by a disaster. The short-term, interest-free loans help bridge the gap between the time damage is incurred and when a business secures other financial resources, including payment of insurance claims or longer-term Small Business Administration loans. Up to $10 million has been allocated for the program.

Key points of the Florida Emergency Bridge Loans:
  • For small business up to 100 employees
  • $25,000 per eligible small business with fewer than 2 employees
  • $50,000 per eligible small business with 2 to 100 employees.  Loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.
  • Have one year to repay loan
  • Only one loan per business
  • 0% interest if repaid with in a year.   12% interest on the unpaid balance thereafter, until balance is paid in full.
  • Applications will be accepted through December 7, 2018
  • 7-10 day approval period

Sources for more information about this program:

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

FL Emergency Bridge Loan application form

Call the Florida Small Business Development Center Network – 866-737-7232

Vsit the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) near you:

Bay County – DRC #11 – Bay County Public Library 898 W 11th Street, Panama City, FL 32401
Bay County – DRC # 13 – John B. Gore Park 530 Beulah Avenue, Callaway, FL 32404
Calhoun County – DRC #10 – Sam Atkins Park NW Silas Green Street, Blountstown, FL 32424
Franklin County – DRC #2 – Carrabelle Public Library 311 St. James Ave, Carrabelle, FL 32322
Gadsden County – DRC #7 – Old Gretna Elementary School 706 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Gretna, FL 32332
Gulf County – DRC #9 – Port St. Joe Library 110 Library Drive, Port St. Joe, FL 32456
Gulf County – DRC #12 Wewahitchka Town Hall 211 Hwy 71, Wewahitchka, FL 32465
Holmes County – DRC #5 – Holmes County Agricultural Center 1169 US 90, Bonifay, FL 32425
Jackson County – DRC #3 – Jackson County Extension Office 2737 Penn Ave, Marianna, FL 32448
Jackson County – Jackson County Mobile DRC Route 6910 Hall Street, Grand Ridge, FL 32442
Leon County – DRC #4 – Collins Main Library 200 West Park Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Liberty County – DRC #8 – Veterans Memorial Park 10405 NW Theo Jacobs Way, Bristol, FL 32321
Wakulla County – DRC #1 – Community One Stop 318 Shadeville Hwy, Crawfordville, FL
Washington County – DRC #6 – Washington County Agricultural Center 1424 W Jackson Ave, Chipley, FL 32428

Certified Pile Burner Courses – November 27 or 28

Certified Pile Burner Courses – November 27 or 28

In response to the large amount of storm debris from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Forest Service and the University of Florida Jackson County Extension Service will be offering a no-cost, Certified Pile Burner Course in Marianna, Florida. For the next several months, because of the risk of wildfires and the challenge of private property access, only certified pile burners will be issued commercial permits in the primary impacted region of Hurricane Michael.

This is one-day class will be offered on consecutive days to allow greater participation:

Choose either Tuesday, November 27, 2018 or Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Class size may be limited, so register early.  This course will show you how to burn piles legally, safely, and efficiently.  This training will be held from 8:30 am till 4:30 pm Central Time at the Jackson County Agriculture Offices, 2741 Pennsylvania Ave., Marianna, Florida.

There will be a test at the end of the session. You must receive a grade of 70% or higher on the exam to pass the course.  After passing the course, you will need to demonstrate a proper pile burn with approval from your local Florida Forest Service (FFS) office to become certified.

Florida’s Certified Pile Burner Training Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should I be a certified pile burner?
A: Certified pile burners are trained to burn piles legally, safely and efficiently. Most importantly, it could save a life. Also, when the weather is dry, certified pile burners will receive priority for authorization to burn by the Florida Forest Service (FFS). Also, certified pile burners are allowed to burn up to two hours longer per day and get multiple day authorizations.

Q: What is a Pile Burner Customer Number?
A: When you call the FFS for an authorization to burn, you will be assigned a personal customer number.  This number references your information, so it doesn’t need to be gathered each time you call for an authorization. You must have your individual FFS customer number in order to be certified.

Q: Is there a test?
A: Yes, the test is 20 questions and open-book. You must receive a score of at least 70% to pass.

Q: What if I don’t pass?
A: Very few people fail the test but if you do, you will be provided another opportunity to take the test at a later date. If you fail the second time, you must re-register and take the training again.

Q: Why do you ask for my email on the application form?
A: Email is the fastest and most convenient method to inform registrants of their registration status. If no email address is provided, then all correspondence will be sent through the federal mail. This can take several days to relay messages, and this may not be practical if changes are made to the course schedule or for last minute registrations.

Q: Is there a cost for the training?
A: No. This is a special class in response to Hurricane Michael, the traditional $50 fee has been waived for these courses.

Q: How long does my certification last, and how long do I have to complete the certification from the time I finish the class?
A: As long as the person with the certification uses their number at least 5 times in a period of 5 years their certification will not expire under the current program. You MUST complete the certification burn within a year of taking the class.

Q: Will certified burners be notified if their certification expires?
A: Yes, notification will be sent out to them to let them know of their upcoming certification expiration date.

Q: Will I be certified at the end of the one-day training?
A: No, you will need to follow the written instructions that you will receive from the FFS to become certified. You will need to complete a simple burn plan, have it reviewed and approved locally by the FFS and also have the burn itself reviewed and approved by the FFS.

Q: Is there a minimum age to be a certified pile burner?
A: Yes, you must be at least 18 years old to take the test and be a certified pile burner.

Marianna Pile Burner Certification Course Registration Packet


For more information, contact: 

Florida Forest Service
Sabrina Willey

October Weather Summary and November Outlook

October Weather Summary and November Outlook


For the Central Panhandle, October 2018 will never be forgotten by the people that lived through Hurricane Michael.   Overall though, October was a dry month outside of the path of the storm.  The graphic above shows that 8-10+” fell where the eye of the storm crossed, but to the east and west October 2018 was 1-2″ below historic average.

The Florida automated Weather Network stations show the variation across the region in October, which is traditionally the driest month of the year in the Panhandle.  There were 5.7″ of rain recorded at the Marianna station, but only 2.1″ in Jay.  Monticello, Defuniak, and Jay received below average rainfall in October, while Quincy, Carrabelle, and Marianna were above average, mostly due to the Hurricane.  For the year the Defuniak station has received the highest rainfall through 10 months of 57,4″, while only 48.5′ has been recorded in Quincy.  The averagge for the 5 stations with 10 months of data was 54.1″.


The trend of warm wet months continued in October, but finally cooled off at month’s end.  For those of us without power and AC, this was a welcomed change.  The high for the month was 91° on October 17, and the low of 48° on October 28.  The average temperature was 72° in October.

Compared to September, the average air temperature dropped 7° from 79° to 72°.  The soil cooled off even more, dropping 8° from an average of 85° in September to 77° in October. If you would like a complete daily rainfall and temperature report from the Marianna FAWN station, use the following link:  2018 Jan-Oct Weather Summary

November Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is once again forecasting a warm wet month ahead, so the wet year is expected to continue.  Hopefully our peanut and hay farmers will get a week or two soon before frost to make their final harvests.

El Niño Watch

The CPC is still anticipating an El Niño winter, although the signals are still mixed and we are technically still in a neutral phase of the ENSO oscillation.  Here is the latest November 5 El Niño forecast from the CPC:

ENSO-neutral conditions are present.  Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are above average across most of the Pacific Ocean.  El Niño is favored to form in the next couple of months and continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2018-19 (70-75% chance)


Hurricane Preparation for Your Farm

Hurricane Preparation for Your Farm

Source: National Hurricane Center

Farmers in Florida worry every fall about potential damage from a hurricane.  Most of the media attention focuses on families in coastal communities, but not as much attention is provided for farmers and ranchers. Emergency responders are also likely to target their efforts immediately after the storm comes ashore on coastal areas hardest hit by storms.  Every farm and ranch in Florida must have an emergency plan for the impact of a hurricane.  The main thing is to prepare to be self sufficient for a more than a week.  The following are ideas that may prove helpful as a checklist to prepare ahead of a major storm.

Resource People

After a major storm large areas in the path are in chaos.  It is important to have a good list of current contact information for important people.  While most of us rely on the phone numbers loaded on a smart phone to do our daily business, it is a good idea to develop a printed list, just in case your cell phone becomes damaged.  Make sure you have current phone numbers for:

  • Extended family – Everyone will want to know you are ok after the storm, and you will want to do the same.
  • Employees and their families – it is good to be able to
  • Veterinarian – not just the office number but a cell phone number as well
  • Neighbors – in rural areas neighbors helping neighbors are the first responders
  • Farm Service Agency Office Damages should be reported within 15 days after the storm.
  • Insurance provider
  • Utility Company – Report downed power lines and power outages so your farm can be added to their response list.
  • County Extension Offices– Agricultural Extension Agents serve as the ESF 17 Coordinators for each county emergency team.  It is their role to assist farm and livestock owners after the storm.  Extension Agents are also part of the State Agriculture Response Team lead by the Florida Department of Agriculture, so they are your local contact in each county for assistance for farms and livestock owners following a disaster.

Loss of Power

At the very least, farmers in rural areas can expect power outages following a hurricane. In rural areas, power may not be restored for 1-2 weeks. This can cause some real problems for farmers.

  • Order fuel to top off farm fuel tanks for tractors and equipment.  Fuel deliveries may be disrupted following the storm.
  • Fill farm and family vehicles with gas.  Local gas stations may not be open for several days after the storm passes.
  • Purchase batteries for flashlights and lanterns.  Have enough flashlights ready for each employee.
  • Stock up on feed for animals receiving supplemental feeds.  Don’t forget the cats and dog food.  Have enough hay, feed and health care supplies on hand for 1-2 weeks. Feed stores may not be open for business for a week or more after a storm.
  • Move animals to pastures with ponds so well filled water troughs are not the only source of water.
  • Dairy farms should have enough generator power so that cows can be milked each day.
  • For operations that rely on electric fencing, have a generator ready to keep the fence hot, or at least move animals to interior pastures so they have multiple fences to help keep them in.

High Winds

Coastal areas normally receive the highest winds as a hurricane comes ashore, but even 50-70 mile per hour winds can create some real problems for livestock producers. Barns and fences are very susceptible to fallen trees and limbs from even tropical storm force winds. Tornadoes are also common in rural areas as storms move through.

  • Make sure chainsaws are in good working order and stock up on mixed fuel.
  • Locate chains and come-a-long for limb and tree movement off of fences and buildings.
  • Stock up on fence repair materials:  wire, posts, and staples for repairing fences damaged by limbs and trees.
  • Move animals and valuable equipment out of barns. Most agricultural barns are not made to withstand more than 75-100 mile per hour winds with out some damage. Metal roofing material falling and flying around can be deadly. Normally open fields or pastures are much safer for both animals and equipment. Animals out in the open have a way of avoiding danger most of the time.
  • Move animals to interior pastures so there are multiple fences between animals and the highway or neighbors.
  • Identify cattle and horses so that if they do wander out of your property, you can be notified of their whereabouts. Halters or collars and luggage tags can be used for horses. If nothing else is available, spray paint your name and phone number on cattle or horses, so they can be returned to you following a storm.  Do not include Coggins number on any identification, because that would allow the animal to be sold at auction.
  • Pick up debris that might become high-wind hazards. Strap down feeders, trailers and other items that might blow around and injure animals or cause damage to facilities.

    Be prepared to remove and clean up broken limbs and uprooted trees on cowpens, fences and buildings following a storm. Photo credit Doug Mayo


Tropical storms and hurricanes can generate 3-15 inches of rain in just a few hours.

  • Move tractors, equipment, hay, or other stored items to highest ground.
  • Move animals out of low lying pastures, or at least tie the gates open so they can move to higher ground if need be.
  • Have enough hay on hand to feed for two weeks in case grass runs short from low areas being flooded.
  • Make sure drainage ditches are clean without blockage.

    Photo credit: USDA Archive

Clean Up and Damage Assessment

Notification and documentation are the keys to getting financial aid following a major storm.

  • Beware of downed power lines. Treat them as if they are charged even if they are damaged or knocked down tree limbs. If you drive up near a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, and contact emergency personnel or the utility company.
  • Contact insurance agencies as soon as possible after the storm passes for buildings that are insured.
  • Report major damage to the local Farm Service Agency within 15 days of the storm to be eligible for federal disaster aid.
  • Document damage and repair expenses. Photographs of damages and receipts for services and materials will be very important when applying for insurance claims and federal disaster aid. Any purchased feed, supplies or veterinary expenses related to storm damage should be recorded as well.

    Equipment shed in Hardee County destroyed by at tornado associated with Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo credit: Doug Mayo

Other Resources available to aid with Farm Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

September 2018 Weather Summary and October Outlook

September 2018 Weather Summary and October Outlook


September 2018 was a very unique month.  Tropical Storm Gordon dumped significant rainfall in Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia Counties in the Florida Panhandle and Southwestern Alabama.  As bad as that was, it did not compare to severe flooding in the Carolinas from Hurricane Florence. Wilmington, North Carolina received 24″ or two feet of rain in the month of September. Yet the areas between these two storm paths were drier than normal.

September rainfall map

Closer to home, the National Weather Service map above shows clearly the path of Tropical Storm Gordon.  The areas shaded in pink, purple, and white received 10″+ for the month.  The Panhandle counties east of the Apalachicola River had much lower rainfall totals, with < 5″ in September.

January through September rainfall chart

The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) stations located in the rural areas of the Panhandle documented the variation across the region in September.  The wettest location was at Jay where 13.2″ were recorded in September.  Only 2.7″ was recorded at the station near Marianna. The Marianna, Quincy and Monticello stations recorded below historic average for September, because the tropical storm had little impact on these locations.  Through the first 3/4 of the year, the DeFuniak station has received the highest total rainfall with 54″, with the lowest total of 44″ in Quincy.  The average for all five stations through September was 50″, which is 2.4″ above average.


The dog days of summer were worse in September than August.  The average 6′ air temperature was 1° warmer than August.

As you can see from the chart above the morning lows did begin to cool off slightly at the end of September, down to a low of 68° on September 28.  There were seven days in September with highs reaching 94°(September 12, 14,15,16, 18, 19, & 20).  The daytime highs were clearly influenced as Hurricane Florence sucked up moisture like a vacuum.  To see the complete daily weather data from the Marianna FAWN station, use the following link:  2018 Jan-Sept Weather Summary.

October Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CDC) forecast for October calls for well above average temperatures to continue, along with above average rainfall.  As peanut and cotton harvest are in full swing, the warm temperatures should continue to dry out the soil.  October is the driest month of the year, normally, so above average rainfall may not be a serious issue for crop harvest, except perhaps in the Western Panhandle counties were soils are already saturated.

El Niño Watch

The CDC has increased the chances of an El Niño this winter.

ENSO-neutral conditions are present.  Equatorial sea surface temperatures are near-to-above average across most of the Pacific Ocean.  There is a 50-55% chance of El Niño onset during the Northern Hemisphere fall 2018 (October-November), increasing to 65-70% during winter 2018-19. Source:Climate Predication Center
So what doe this mean for farmers and ranchers?  It may be a good year for cool-season forages and small grains, with additional rainfall this winter.  The past two years have been very dry in the fall, but this year’s forecast is different.  It may take longer than normal to cool down this fall, but at least there is soil moisture to work with.  It could be a more challenging year for vegetable and melon producers, who may face wetter conditions than normal in the spring.
el nino rainfall in Florida
In general El Niño years are 2° cooler and 3″ wetter than normal through the late fall and winter.  But, as you can see from the chart above there is a 4″ range in the Panhandle for El Niño years.