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Florida Citrus Recovery Block Grant Program

OIG evaluated FSA's and the State of Florida's delivery of the CRBG Program

Audit Report: 03702-0001-22
Published: 06/30/2021
View Report PDF
Fast Facts

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA) provided the United States Department of Agriculture
with $2.36 billion for disaster assistance to help offset agricultural producers’ losses related to
hurricanes and wildfires that occurred in calendar year 2017. From this appropriated amount,
the Secretary of Agriculture directed the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to provide approximately
$2 billion to eligible producers through the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program
(WHIP) and a $340 million block grant to the State of Florida (Florida). In conjunction with
WHIP, this block grant, the Citrus Recovery Block Grant (CRBG) Program, provided aid to
Florida citrus producers who suffered losses specifically related to Hurricane Irma.

Florida designated its Division of Emergency Management (grant personnel) to administer the
grant program. FSA’s Farm Programs Division managed CRBG Program operations by
providing technical guidance to Florida for implementing the grant; requiring weekly
performance reports; and holding weekly, later monthly, conference calls. Florida was
responsible for the overall management of the CRBG Program, including payment
disbursements.

The grant agreement between FSA and Florida specified that, in order to be eligible, a farming
operation had to be engaged in citrus production in Florida and had to have at least one acre of
farmland with 100 citrus trees. Additionally, producers had to provide grant personnel with a
timely WHIP application, evidence of continuing operations, and proof that Federal crop
insurance was purchased at a minimum 60 percent coverage level for subsequent crop years 2020and 2021.

Producers were not eligible to receive a CRBG Program payment for activities for which they
had received a Tree Assistance Program (TAP) payment. In addition, FSA’s Emergency
Conservation Program (ECP) and CRBG Program both reimburse for debris removal and
irrigation. Producers were not eligible to receive payment from ECP and the CRBG Program for
the same activity.

Florida distributes grant payments in three parts. Florida processes and disburses each
producer’s payments in order by part number. FSA and Florida included young tree acreage in
the CRBG Program because many producers had substantial numbers of trees 5 years and
younger (referred to as “young trees”) that suffered damage due to Hurricane Irma, and relief for
this young tree acreage was not available through WHIP.

Part 1 payments reimbursed producers for rehabilitating their citrus groves. Part 1 allowed
eligible producers to receive $385 per acre for up to 15,000 acres if they experienced at least a
20 percent production loss because of Hurricane Irma. Prior to payment, producers had to
submit documentation that demonstrated proof of paid rehabilitation expenses equal to the
amount of their Part 1 payment. Producers were required to purchase tree insurance at a
minimum 60 percent coverage level for all acreage paid under Part 1. All young trees were
potentially eligible for Part 1, grove rehabilitation payments.

Part 2 payments reimbursed producers for future economic losses caused by Hurricane Irma
damage. Under Part 2, producers were eligible if they had suffered at least a 40 percent
production loss. Florida began distributing these future economic loss payments in March 2019
and, as of December 3, 2020, was still distributing Part 2 payments. Part 2 payments are
distributed in three segments: the first provides $372.75 per acre after grant personnel perform a
site inspection; the second provides $186.38 per acre after the producer submits proof of crop
insurance for crop year 2020; and the third provides $186.38 per acre after the producer submits
proof of crop insurance for crop year 2021. Only trees 3 years and older were eligible for Part 2
payments.

Part 3 payments will reimburse producers for 2 years of insurance premiums and administrative
fees if the producer elects to purchase crop insurance for 4 crop years instead of the required
2 crop years. Producers will receive Part 3 reimbursements after submitting proof of insurance
for the 2022 and 2023 crop years. Furthermore, these payments are subject to the availability of
funds once disbursements under Parts 1 and 2 are complete.

When determining grant payment amounts, grant personnel used information from the
producers’ approved WHIP applications. This information included a producer’s acreage in
production, and its expected crop yield, crop type, and actual production for crop year 2018.
Grant personnel used the information to determine a producer’s percentage of production loss for
each crop. If the producer met the required loss percentage, the payment amount was
calculated by multiplying the eligible acreage by the applicable dollar amount.

As of December 3, 2020, 980 producers received approval for a grant payment. Part 1 and 2
grant payments to these 980 producers totaled $274,681,210, which is more than 80 percent of
the total block grant award. As of December 3, 2020, Florida had not distributed any Part 3
payments.

OBJECTIVES

We evaluated FSA’s and Florida’s delivery of the CRBG Program. Specifically, we reviewed:
(1) how FSA implemented the payment limitations set forth in the Bipartisan Budget Act;
(2) whether grant funds were awarded to eligible producers for eligible purposes; and
(3) whether producers received duplicate payments from the CRBG Program and other FSA
programs.

Overall, FSA and Florida designed an adequate control structure over the block grant program.
We found that FSA adequately implemented the payment limitations set forth in the Bipartisan
Budget Act and that producers’ grant payments did not duplicate any other FSA program
payments. However, we identified eight improper CRBG payments and one improper ECP
payment that duplicated a CRBG payment.

Redaction Notice

This audit report contains sensitive information that has been redacted for public release, due
to privacy concerns.