As we have seen the damage from Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and are currently watching Hurricane Michael tear through Florida, Georgia, and other Southeast states, our hearts go out to farmers who have been affected by these hurricanes. North Carolina’s agriculture agency asked state legislators Monday for over $300 million to address cleanup and recovery after Hurricane Florence, with most going toward direct payments to farmers who lost crops and livestock to help them stay in business.
According to The Associated Press, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler made the heartfelt pitch to a General Assembly committee a week before the legislature reconvenes to take its second step in addressing last month’s massive rains and historic flooding.
“This is an unprecedented crisis for North Carolina agriculture. Florence was an unprecedented storm that could not have come at a worse time for agriculture,” Troxler told the agriculture oversight panel. Some key legislators, however, wanted more information before endorsing the payment program. Troxler said without substantial state assistance, some agriculture communities won’t survive.
“We’re at a crossroads and a crisis in agriculture and it’s going to be your leadership that determines whether we lose a whole generation of farmers or whether we help this foundational industry move forward and out of this crisis,” Troxler told lawmakers.
Lawmakers set aside $50 million to match federal disaster relief funds during a special session last week. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to have his own list of monetary and policy needs for next week.
Troxler, who is also elected statewide, said $250 million of his $310 million request would go into a yet-developed Farmer Recovery Reinvestment Program. It would pay farmers with uninsured and underinsured crop, livestock and poultry losses to help them remain in agriculture.
“We have to figure out a way to keep our farmers afloat. They don’t need another loan. They can’t pay back hardly what they’ve got now,” Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith said. This comes at a time as North Carolina is getting hit again, this time by Hurricane Michael.
Preliminary crop and livestock damage is at least $1.1 billion, with the economic impact at $2.8 billion, Troxler said. The state has about $2 billion in its rainy day reserves, and this year’s state budget left $560 million unspent.