Low Prices Make Flood Recovery Tough For Farmers
Farmer Jamie Burgess has a lot riding on this harvest.
“Corn so far is doing good,” he said from the drivers seat of his combine. “If we can just get a good price we’ll be all right.”
Last year, most of Burgess’ crops were drowned by record rainfall. The South Carolina agriculture department estimates farmers lost 75 percent of the money they were expecting to make off of crops in 2015.
Burgess farms more than 1,000 acres in Kingstree, 80 miles north of Charleston. He is hoping his corn and soybeans this year will make enough money to start paying back debts exacerbated by last years unprofitable season.
The market price for corn is still low, so he’s holding off on the sale. What he makes off these crops can determine the future of his farm.
“That flood got us so far back,” he said. “It will still be really hard to pay what you borrowed on the farm now plus what you owe from the flood.”
Burgess and more than 1,200 other farmers just got some help from the state. Earlier this year, the legislature dedicated $40 million dollars to farmers who lost a portion of their crop as a result of the flooding.
“What they said I was eligible for, it will cover about half of my loss. Which is a big help. A big, big help.”
Farmers in Orangeburg County were awarded the most grant money, followed by Darlington and Williamsburg counties. South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said the state is paying farmers $35.5 million.
“We paid claims on more than 60 crops in South Carolina. Including 17 organic crops, like kiwi, tobacco, lettuce, [and] arugula. Some of our traditional crops: soybean, peanuts, cotton,” Weathers said. “We even covered clams.”
The payments were sent to farmers earlier this month, but it is too early to see how much it helps. Burgess expects to have a better idea of his future in the field at the end of the year.
“Farmers don’t pay monthly bills,” he said. “We don’t get paid but once a year, it’s according to the crop.”