Spring means the start of planting season for many farmers. However, those who’s crops were devastated by Hurricane Michael may be facing the tough decision to go out of business.
Local experts tell News 3 farmers are struggling without the federal disaster aid that is also still struggling to make it through Congress.
“They need to have the money they need to plant their crops, they have to have equipment that was destroyed in the hurricane, because not only was it crops that was destroyed, it was infrastructure as well,” explains Steve Morgan, the County Extension Coordinator for the Harris County UGA Extension Office.
Morgan says Georgia suffered heavy agricultural losses after the category 5 hurricane hit in October. More than $600 million worth of cotton crops were destroyed, $374 million worth of timber and $560 million worth of pecans were lost — just to name a few.
He says if local famers weren’t able to save enough of their 2018 crop and make enough money to buy this year’s seed, that ripple effect may mean they’ll never recover.
“With a pecan crop, you’re talking about 20 and 30 years, so you got a producer that’s 50 or 60 years old, he’ll never see the recuperation of those losses,” Morgan explains to News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton. “It’s disheartening, because some of these farms have been in a family for generations — 50, 60, or 100 years — but now they’re looking at bankruptsy or going out of business.”
Congress failed once again in early April to pass a federal disaster aid package which would include Hurricane Michael relief to the Southeast, as well as funds to other areas affected by 2018 natural disasters.
The debate is split along party lines as President Trump declared he will not support further financial aid to Puerto Rico while democrats oppose an aid package without it.
Congress will return from a break in session later this week when they will continue debating the proposed $13.5 billion aid bill. Republicans submitted an aid package to include $600 million in food only aid to Puerto Rico. Democrats turned this down, saying they will not agree without additional money to cover infrastructure recovery.
Morgan showed News 3 a letter issued by 135 agricultural agencies across America now appealing to Trump and congressional leaders. The letter urges them to consider the thousands of families facing hardship the longer it takes to receive aid.
“It’s about families, it’s not about politics. We’ve got famlies that are hurting and in dire need, not just in Georgia. All across the country we’ve had floods, wildfires, devastating weather, and those guys are hurting. They feed our country, so we need that help,” Morgan says.