Ag News

GFB among ag groups requesting immediate action on disaster aid

by Georgia Farm Bureau

Georgia Farm Bureau, along with 140 other agricultural organizations, sent a letter to President Donald Trump and House and Senate leaders on April 19 requesting immediate action to address the dire situations impacting farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural communities across the nation. The letter addressed the difficult year farmers have faced in 2018 and 2019 due to challenging market prices and destructive weather. 

The letter noted that farms across the country endured an incredibly difficult year in 2018 and the trend continues in 2019 with challenging market prices and destructive natural disaster. Historic Hurricanes Florence and Michael, along with unprecedented wildfires, droughts, flooding and other natural disasters, devastated agricultural regions throughout the nation. Estimated agriculture losses in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina alone total nearly $5.5 billion.

The groups noted farm losses due to disasters in other areas of the country and pointed out that while many producers benefited from the Market Facilitation Program assistance provided by the administration last fall to offset lost trade markets, those producers who lost their crops due to natural disaster received no help.

In the Southeast, farmers have been waiting more than six months for Congress and the Administration to enact disaster relief funding. Numerous farmers are unable to secure production financing to plant a crop this year due to the lack of federal agricultural disaster assistance. Without supplemental assistance from a disaster bill, their lenders will be faced with tough lending decisions in 2019.

“We cannot overstate how critical and time-sensitive it is to deliver on the commitments made last year to enact disaster relief for the farmers, ranchers and rural communities impacted by these catastrophic weather events,” the groups wrote. “We strongly urge you to make the compromises necessary to find a path forward to approve critically-needed disaster relief, without further delay, and as soon as Congress returns from its two-week recess. The livelihoods of farm families and the economic health of rural communities are at stake.”

In a related move on May 6, Sens. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Rick Scott (R-Florida) sent a “dear colleague” letter to Democratic senators from states impacted by natural disasters urging them to immediately pass disaster relief funding. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp joined governors of nine other states in writing a letter urging President Trump and Congress to support disaster relief legislation, according to published reports.

Perdue and Scott pointed out that the Senate historically has supported states hit by natural disasters with supplemental funding bills, moving quickly and with bipartisan support. For instance, within 10 days of Hurricane Katrina, Congress passed supplemental disaster relief funding. After Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, it took 17 days. For Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 storm to strike the United States, it took 34 days. More than 200 days have passed since Hurricane Michael devastated Florida’s Panhandle and Southwest Georgia.

Perdue and Scott pointed out that proposed disaster funding includes support for families affected by an earthquake in Alaska, volcanic activity in Hawaii, wildfires in California, hurricanes that hit North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and the central Northern Mariana Islands, the 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico, tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia, and recent flooding in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and South Dakota.