State aid coming to farmers coping with crop losses

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Hurricane Michael recovery efforts continue for farmers in Georgia, nearly three months after the storm devastated crops here, but help is on the way. 

The hurricane cut through Georgia in September. The record losses here are measured in billions of dollars when you total all of the crops affected; timber, pecans, cotton, poultry, peanuts, and fruits & vegetables.

“Those are the primary players when it comes to the, to the devastation that we’ve experienced in recent weeks.  Timber and pecan, those are generational losses, meaning, we’ll be years before we recover,” said Gary Black, Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

The commissioner shares good news for farmers: state aid will be available soon. Black says says the Georgia legislature just approved $55-million dollars in farm aid in their special session last month. 

Lawmakers approved funds a special loan program through the Georgia Development Authority. 

Black says those low-interest loans can be up to four hundred thousand dollars, adding affected farmers need this help is right now. 

“They’ve got operating expenses. They got fertilizer bills to pay, but they were not able to sell any crops in order to meet their obligations so we expect this loan program to be engaged in December, so we’re very excited about that,” said Black.

The commissioner says farmers can take up to seven years to repay the loans, adding the public can play a role in helping Georgia farmers recover from Hurricane Michael.

“Here’s what you can do today.  You go to your retailer and ask ’em are you carrying Georgia grown pecans?  I want Georgia grown pecans.  I want Georgia grown fresh fruits and vegetables next Spring.  I want them in more abundance.  I want them advertised that way and we’re gonna stand strong as Georgians behind the Georgia grown brand,” said Black.

He added that the Peach State is hoping not to go it alone with aid to farmers here. 

Black says Georgia is asking their federal partners for a five-to-one match on state-aid to farmers.

“The President, the Vice President, the Secretary, everybody has voiced their strong commitment to stand with Georgia farmers and I believe they’re going to do so, but we do have to have Congress to act,”  said Black.

The exact amount of the federal farm aid match in Georgia has not been determined at this time, but Black hopes it’s set before the end of the year.

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