$800 million in disaster aid to farmers hit by hurricanes

Florida

AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio, File

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The federal government announced $800 million in aid Friday to farmers in three southern states that were devastated by last year’s hurricanes.

Nearly half that money will go to Florida, where timber farmers suffered catastrophic losses when Hurricane Michael came ashore in October 2018 and destroyed 2.8 million acres of commercially grown trees.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the funding also will help Alabama and Georgia cover hurricane losses in the timber, cattle and poultry industries.

The money, which will be distributed as block grants to communities, is part of a $3 billion disaster relief package authorized by Congress earlier this year to help communities recovering from wildfires, flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes.

“Natural disasters dealt producers some hefty blows in the past couple of years,” a statement from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says. “While we can’t make producers whole, we can give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and prepare for next year’s planting and harvest.”

Florida’s share is expected to top $380 million, while $347 million is headed to Georgia, where the timber industry also suffered significant losses. Alabama gets $25 million.

While the announcement by federal officials referenced Hurricane Florence, the state hardest hit by that storm — North Carolina — was not among the immediate beneficiaries being announced on Friday. North Carolina and federal officials were still negotiating over the terms of the aid package, U.S. Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce told The Associated Press.

The remaining money, more than $40 million, could end up helping farmers in the Tar Heel State who were hit hard by Hurricane Florence.

The financial help is especially welcome in Florida’s panhandle, where the timber industry suffered $1.3 billion in losses. Much of that timber is rotting in denuded forests partly because many farmers did not have the resources to harvest logs. In order to for them to reforest their land, farmers will have to invest thousands of dollars to clear their property of debris.

Unlike other farmers whose crops can be insured, timber growers are usually on their own.

“Although it won’t make forest landowners whole, it will make a tremendous difference in their ability to begin recovery and move forward with clean-up and reforestation,” said Alan Shelby, the executive vice president of the Florida Forestry Association.

Farmers have been waiting for relief for months, and federal officials said they hoped to finalize contracts by Thanksgiving and release money to the states soon after.

“In the coming weeks, our priority will be moving this funding forward, so that timber producers can have checks in hand and trees in the ground,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.

Hurricane Michael ploughed through the Florida Panhandle as a Category 5 storm, the strongest ever recorded to hit the region, before pummeling Georgia and the Carolinas. It destroyed thousands of homes and battered coastal and rural communities, many still trying to recover a year later.

Weeks earlier, Hurricane Florence whipped through North Carolina and deluged the region with flooding rains.

Steve Troxler, the agriculture commissioner for North Carolina, said negotiations with federal officials will continue so his state’s farmers get their share of aid.

“About 70% of the federal funding was earmarked for a timber program that won’t help our farmers,” he said, “because it stipulates that the funding cover timber that was damaged beyond repair.”

While the state had significant timber losses, Troxler said, the damage did not meet the funding guidelines set by federal officials.

LATEST STORIES:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Videos

Tampa-based Syndaver making respirators during shortage

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tampa-based Syndaver making respirators during shortage"

School principals virtually interview potential teachers because of Coronavirus

Thumbnail for the video titled "School principals virtually interview potential teachers because of Coronavirus"

Clearwater-based Mercury Medical donates 2,500 CPAP devices to New York

Thumbnail for the video titled "Clearwater-based Mercury Medical donates 2,500 CPAP devices to New York"

Wednesday Morning Forecast

Thumbnail for the video titled "Wednesday Morning Forecast"

New resources, same problems: users still struggle to file online for unemployment benefits

Thumbnail for the video titled "New resources, same problems: users still struggle to file online for unemployment benefits"

What senior citizens need to know about stimulus checks

Thumbnail for the video titled "What senior citizens need to know about stimulus checks"

a USF graduate has started building gym equipment so that people can workout at home

Thumbnail for the video titled "a USF graduate has started building gym equipment so that people can workout at home"

Veteran buys $20K bottle of bourbon from Datz for $40K to help restaurant stay open during coronavirus crisis

Thumbnail for the video titled "Veteran buys $20K bottle of bourbon from Datz for $40K to help restaurant stay open during coronavirus crisis"

Polk County cities hold elections in midst of global coronavirus pandemic

Thumbnail for the video titled "Polk County cities hold elections in midst of global coronavirus pandemic"

Car wash claims Pinellas is only county in FL to shut down services due to Coronavirus

Thumbnail for the video titled "Car wash claims Pinellas is only county in FL to shut down services due to Coronavirus"

Big Storm Brewing making hand sanitizer 24-7 amid pandemic

Thumbnail for the video titled "Big Storm Brewing making hand sanitizer 24-7 amid pandemic"

Bucs unveil new uniforms

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bucs unveil new uniforms"
More Local News

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss