Farmers Begin Farm Aid Applications, Hope it's Enough
At the start of July, applications officially opened for the state Farm Aid program. Farmers are now able to fill out their losses and submit them to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for a limited reimbursement of their lost income from October's historic flood. But, the process is confusing. Training workshops are being held around the state to help farmers better understand the process. Cooper McKim talks to farmers and experts about it.
Farm Aid is a state-organized program worth $40 million dollars that will be distributed to farmers throughout the state. Anyone can apply who can show they lost at least 40% of their predicted income as well as prove their intention to continue farming. Individuals can apply for up to $100,000 or 20% of their lost income -- whichever comes first.
"This is a help, but it certainly doesn't cover the loss. Whatever I receive won't recover the loss that I had and many other farmers like this are in the same situation."
In Darlington County, more than fifty farmers find their seats in the conference room of the Pee Dee Electric Cooperative. Representatives from crop insurance groups, the state Department of Agriculture, and Clemson Extension stand at the front of the room preparing for the presentation. They're here to show farmers how to properly apply for Farm Aid.
"Once you understand what's required, I think filling out the application is pretty straight forward. It's just knowing what you need to have to do to do it," Nathan Smith says, a Clemson Extension economist and presenter.
Willard Dorriety is a soybean and corn farmer. He's excited the day has finally come to start applying for state aid and agrees with Smith that, "you have these meeting, you understand exactly what you have to do. You don't have to rely on rumors or anything else, you know what you have to do and you go do it."
Dorriety lost 96% of his farm during October's historic flood. "We were unable to harvest anything that was, or should've, been harvestable. We harvest 100 acres of soybeans and that was it -- out of 2800 acres," he says. But even with state aid, he says it won't be enough to cure his farm: "this is a help, but it certainly doesn't cover the loss. Whatever I receive won't recover the loss that I had and many other farmers like this are in the same situation."
Dorriety adds the money will nonetheless be well-received when, or if, it comes. Head of the state's Department of Agriculture Hugh Weathers says helping farmers like Dorriety will help the whole state's economy. When the flood hit, it caused nearly $300 million in crop damage alone. Weathers says this doesn't just affect farmers, but ancillary businesses.
He says, "With the cotton gins, and the farm supply business, and the fuel sales... it's so critical to get these dollars moved back into those counties. The total impact, we estimate, [is] just under $600 million from the flood last year, direct and indirect."
The economist and presenter Nathan Smith says he hopes today's workshop will farmers properly fill their forms so they can get their Farm Aid money as quickly as possible. "Hopefully at the end of all this, we'll be able to say we helped the farmers, helped them being able to rebound from a devastating event," he says.
On September 15th, the US Department of Agriculture announced that South Carolina farmers would receive more than $35 million in aid for help with the recovery effort from the historic floods of October 2015.