Florida’s citrus industry has been under siege for many years. Between the relentless
citrus greening disease and devastating weather events, many groves have been
decimated, forcing growers who have been in the industry for generations to re-evaluate
their business strategy.
Bamboo is well suited to our climate and can provide economic and environmental
payoffs more rapidly than other crops. Kim Lott with Crop Disaster Recovery works
closely with the USDA and with growers who have been negatively impacted by severe
weather events throughout the nation. She’s been investigating the feasibility of
Florida’s struggling citrus growers planting bamboo as an alternative crop. She has
some tips for growers interested in growing bamboo. There are some programs that
could potentially provide growers with financial assistance for these efforts, though it
could require some perseverance to successfully get funding from them.
The 2014 Farm Bill established the Tree Assistance Program to provide financial
resources for growers to replant certain trees lost to natural disasters. This cost-share
program helps with site preparation, tree purchasing, and planting costs. Florida citrus
growers affected by hurricanes may qualify for this program and can apply to receive
assistance with replacing their lost citrus trees with bamboo, but it’s not guaranteed to
“Bamboo can be an alternative or replacement crop for citrus, but it’s not on the
approved crop list for TAP,” Kim Lott explains. “The local county committees are the
ones that make these determinations, and then sometimes it can even go up to the
state office, depending on what county that producer is in.”
To qualify for TAP funding, a grower must have suffered at least a 15 percent loss of
eligible plants that normally produce an annual crop due to a natural disaster. The
applicant must also have owned the eligible trees at the time of the disaster, and the
replacements must be planted within 12 months of the TAP application being approved.
There are also cost-share programs available through FDACS (Florida Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services) to help growers implement Best Management
Practices (BMP) in areas where bodies of water have been identified as degraded.
“If they previously had a citrus grove and they’re converting it to bamboo, FDACS would
be a great program to participate in,” Lott describes. “We see a lot of producers put in
automated irrigation, with probes that measure how much water is in the soil. With
bamboo, you would water in smaller amounts due to a shallower root system, but it will
be more frequent than citrus, so water automation would be a great asset.”
The USDA also has a program called Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities that
could be utilized to assist agricultural investors fund projects to establish bamboo
production and processing facilities in Florida. Enterprise Florida is an excellent
organization to help interested growers locate other possible resources for this type of
While Lott’s company assists farmers access government funding earmarked
specifically to aid in agricultural recovery efforts, she urges anyone interested in growing
or processing bamboo to reach out to state legislators and encourage them to increase
support for this sustainable, multipurpose, eco-friendly crop.