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2023 Florida Statutes (including 2023C)

Agriculture and Aquaculture Producers Natural Disaster Recovery Loan Program.
F.S. 570.822
1570.822 Agriculture and Aquaculture Producers Natural Disaster Recovery Loan Program.
(1) DEFINITIONS.As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Bona fide farm operation” means a farm operation engaged in a good faith commercial agricultural use of land on land classified as agricultural pursuant to s. 193.461 or on sovereign submerged land that is leased to the applicant by the department pursuant to s. 597.010 and that produces agricultural products within the definition of agriculture under s. 570.02.
(b) “Declared natural disaster” means a natural disaster for which a state of emergency is declared pursuant to s. 252.36.
(c) “Department” means the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
(d) “Essential physical property” means fences, equipment, structural production facilities, such as shade houses and greenhouses, or other agriculture or aquaculture facilities or infrastructure.
(e) “Program” means the Agriculture and Aquaculture Producers Natural Disaster Recovery Loan Program.
(a) The program is established within the department to make loans to agriculture and aquaculture producers that have experienced damage or destruction from a declared natural disaster. Loan funds may be used to restore, repair, or replace essential physical property or remove vegetative debris from essential physical property. A structure or building constructed using loan proceeds must comply with storm-hardening standards for nonresidential farm buildings as defined in s. 604.50(2). The department shall adopt such standards by rule.
(b) The department may make a low-interest or interest-free loan to an eligible applicant. The maximum amount that an applicant may receive during the application period for a loan is $500,000. An applicant may not receive more than one loan per application period and no more than two loans per year or no more than five loans in any 3-year period. A loan term is 10 years.
(3) ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS.To be eligible for the program, an applicant must:
(a) Own or lease a bona fide farm operation that is located in a county named in a declared natural disaster and that was damaged or destroyed as a result of such declared natural disaster.
(b) Maintain complete and acceptable farm records, pursuant to criteria published by the department, and present them as proof of production levels and bona fide farm operations.
(a) Requests for loans must be made by application to the department. Upon a determination that funding for loans is available, the department shall publicly notice an application period for the declared natural disaster, beginning within 60 days after the date of the declared natural disaster and running up to 1 year after the date of the declared natural disaster or until all available loan funds are exhausted, whichever occurs first.
(b) An applicant must demonstrate the need for financial assistance and an ability to repay or meet a standard credit rating determined by the department.
(c) Loans must be made pursuant to written agreements specifying the terms and conditions agreed to by the approved applicant and the department. The loan agreement must specify that the loan is due upon sale if the property or other collateral for the loan is sold.
(d) An approved applicant must agree to stay in production for the duration of the loan. A loan is not assumable.
(5) LOAN SECURITY REQUIREMENTS.All loans must be secured by a lien, subordinate only to any mortgage held by a financial institution as defined in s. 655.005, on property or other collateral as set forth in the loan agreement. The specific type of collateral required may vary depending upon the loan purpose, repayment ability, and the particular circumstances of the applicant. The department shall record the lien in public records in the county where the property is located and, in the case of personal property, perfect the security interest by filing appropriate Uniform Commercial Code forms with the Florida Secured Transaction Registry as required pursuant to chapter 679.
(a) A loan is due and payable in accordance with the terms of the loan agreement.
(b) The department shall defer payments for the first 3 years of the loan. After 3 years, the department shall reduce the principal balance annually through the end of the loan term such that the original principal balance is reduced by 30 percent. If the principal balance is repaid before the end of the 10th year, the applicant may not be required to pay more than 70 percent of the original principal balance. The approved applicant must continue to be actively engaged in production in order to receive the original principal balance reductions and must continue to meet the loan agreement terms to the satisfaction of the department.
(c) An approved applicant may make payments on the loan at any time without penalty. Early repayment is encouraged as other funding sources or revenues become available to the approved applicant.
(d) All repayments of principal and interest, if applicable, received by the department in a fiscal year must be returned to the loan fund and made available for loans to other applicants in the next application period.
(e) The department may periodically review an approved applicant to determine whether he or she continues to be in compliance with the terms of the loan agreement. If the department finds that an applicant is no longer in production or has otherwise violated the loan agreement, the department may seek repayment of the full original principal balance outstanding, including any interest or costs, as applicable, and excluding any applied or anticipated original principal balance reductions.
(a) The department shall create and maintain a separate account in the General Inspection Trust Fund as a fund for the program. All repayments must be returned to the loan fund and made available as provided in this section. Notwithstanding s. 216.301, funds appropriated for the loan program are not subject to reversion. The department shall manage the fund, establishing loan practices that must include, but are not limited to, procedures for establishing loan interest rates, uses of funding, application procedures, and application review procedures. The department is authorized to contract with a third-party administrator to administer the program and manage the loan fund. A contract for a third-party administrator that includes management of the loan fund must, at a minimum, require maintenance of the loan fund to ensure that the program may operate in a revolving manner.
(b) The department shall coordinate with other state agencies and other entities to ensure to the greatest extent possible that agriculture and aquaculture producers in this state have access to the maximum financial assistance available following a natural disaster. The coordination must endeavor to ensure that there is no duplication of financial assistance between the loan program and other funding sources, such as any federal or other state programs, including public assistance requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or financial assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture, which could render the approved applicant ineligible for other financial assistance.
(8) RULES.The department shall adopt rules to implement this section.
(9) REPORTS.By December 1, 2024, and each December 1 thereafter, the department shall provide a report on program activities during the previous fiscal year to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The report must include information on noticed application periods, the number and value of loans awarded under the program for each application period, the number and value of loans outstanding, the number and value of any loan repayments received, and an anticipated repayment schedule for all loans.
(10) SUNSET.This section expires July 1, 2043, unless reviewed and saved from repeal through reenactment by the Legislature.
History.s. 20, ch. 2023-349.
1Note.Section 22, ch. 2023-349, provides that “[t]he Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall, and all conditions are deemed met to, adopt emergency rules pursuant to s. 120.54(4), Florida Statutes, for the purpose of implementing s. 570.822, Florida Statutes. Notwithstanding any other law, emergency rules adopted pursuant to this section are effective for 6 months after adoption and may be renewed during the pendency of the procedure to adopt permanent rules addressing the subject of the emergency rules.”