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Deal Reached on Drought Aid for N.C. Farmers

Posted December 17, 2007

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— State and federal governments will be giving much-needed to relief to North Carolina farmers sapped by the record-setting drought.

Agricultural losses for the year will total $573 million, according to a report released Monday by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. More than half of those losses – $382 million – will come directly from farmers, while the remainder will cut into the state's related economic activity.

That news came the same day that the U.S. Senate voted, 79-14, to pass the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), an omnibus spending bill.

"Without this disaster assistance, there are a lot of farmers that might not be able to farm next year, and they are now sitting around tables making decisions," U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-Lillington, said. "This will now help farmers make their decisions with their bankers to get the job done."

The bill amends a provision signed by President George Bush in May that provided $3 billion in agriculture assistance for declared disasters in 2005, 2006 and 2007, but set a deadline of Feb. 28, 2007, effectively leaving out farmers affected by the drought.

The bill passed on Monday extends that deadline to Dec. 31, allowing farmers affected by the drought to be eligible for direct disaster assistance. The funding is mandatory money, obligating the federal government to provide what is necessary for farmers. The deal was estimated to cost about $600 million.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 85 North Carolina counties as primary disaster areas. That designation made farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans, but the bill passed Monday provides for direct payments.

Soybean farmers suffered the greatest damages at $130 million in North Carolina, according to the state agriculture department's report. Those numbers, however, did not count losses for the livestock, poultry and dairy industries that have also struggled through the drought.

The drought has endangered the state's 800,000 cattle, because there was not enough rain to grow hay this summer. According to Monday's report, farmers across the state lost about $91 million in hay and pasture crop in 2007.

Some livestock farmers said they are paying up to three times the normal price to ship it in from out-of-state.

"It's a huge problem. Hay production is down 45 percent in North Carolina compared to last year," Brian Long, spokesman for the state agriculture department, said.

Bill Wallace said the hay shortage has complicated feeding the 30 cattle on his Wake Forest farm while preparing for winter and mating season. He invested several thousand dollars to stock up on hay early.

"Normally, we don't start feeding hay until after the first of the year, but we had to start earlier this year," Wallace said. "Because of the drought, we had to buy a little more feed, a little more purchase feed. I had to buy 100 bales of hay, which I usually don't."

The Council of State recently agreed to spend up to $3.5 million to purchase approximately 100,000 bales of hay from out of state. State agricultural officials have begun developing a plan to create hay stockpiles, which should "bring some hay into the state that's going to help farmers who may find themselves in an emergency situation," Long said.

"Whatever the state can do to help people will be a benefit," Wallace said.

The Farm Bill next will go into a conference session where the Senate and House will work out differences in competing versions of the legislation. It then goes to Bush's desk for his signature.


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  • doodad Dec 18, 2007

    On another note, without government support small operations would vanish and large corporate farms will take over. Compare this to what has happened in the textile industry and manufacturing.

  • doodad Dec 18, 2007

    US farmers account for less than 2% of the US population.

    Less than 2% of the US population feeds the US and the world.

    US family farms struggle financially because the government controls prices to protect the other 98% of the population from having to pay more for food. Food is the cheapest commodity available.

    Farmers have become "incorporated" because of tax purposes and once incorporated in this "sue" crazy world, a lawsuit only goes after the farming company, not the farmer's house, personal items, and savings for education, retirement,etc.

    FYI, small family farms detest large corporate farms worse than the average public, because small farmers get crushed first.

    There is a limit in this bill that will prevent large corporate farms from getting more than their share of drought relief.

  • RDM Dec 18, 2007

    I take offense when I read that most farms are corportate. Well mine isn't. This years has been awful. Poor crops with corn, wheat, soybeans, watermelons, pumpkins. I hope to never see another year like this one. I can't believe the negative attitude some of you people have toward farming.

  • coxhomeandauto Dec 18, 2007

    if you want to make a farmer angry, ask him to explain all the WELFARE, they receive you will probably get the old; farmers feed you response,i grew up on a farm and still own farmland to this day,and im here to say that the reason farmers get so many HANDOUTS is because they have 1 of the strongest lobby org. in the country, ride around and look at these poor farmers homes, they most all have new cars ,trucks,equipment and of course they own hundreds of acres of land. the housing and auto industry is in a slump as well ,,,how bout some of that free welfare for that industry, and in response to mr farmer boy yessssss they do pay farmers to NOT grow crops and lots of other free checks as well!!!!!

  • silverado32 Dec 18, 2007

    First of all how many of you that have commented here farm. i bet none of you. well I do! yal need to get the facts before talking junk about the farmers. you are not gettint he whole story here and i dont have the space to tell you. the government is not bailing out farmers. the government runs the farming. farming is a lot of political things envolved. most of you forgot what this country was founded on. shame on you. for you hobby people with one or two horses you can get rid of your burden. most farmers cann't. i have a good friend going out of farming because of this drought. you people need to know what you are talking about. we have to have operating loans for $200,000 or more for one year for our equipment,seeds, FUEL, break downs, and anything else i did not mention to put food on your table or cloths on your back.

  • madman Dec 17, 2007

    Well just as I thought, you're an uneducated about the situation. CRP doesn't pay you to not grow crops, it pays you to lay out land and help control erosion. (Read the sentence after where you stopped reading, it tells you exactly what CRP really is) Also, please do not take any article that quotes Bill Clinton seriously or any other politician for that matter. Look into it yourself and find that it's not as bad as you think. Most of the time it's not the farmers getting paid for this program, it's landowners that get the paycheck.

  • SeattlePack Dec 17, 2007

    Here is the proof for you Madman:


    I'm sure that I can find other sources if you do not believe this one!!!

  • madman Dec 17, 2007

    Give examples of NOT growing a crop and getting paid. Until you have proof, do not bring that issue up. That argument always comes up when anything is remotely related to farming and so far NO ONE can back it up.

    wakecoparent, it sounds like you own a horse as a hobby. If that's the case, like other people's hobbies, they can be abandoned when the money gets tight. If you make your living from raising livestock, you have to feed them, there is no choice. I hate that you are feeling the crunch on your feed bills, but you cannot compare your situation to a farmer's.

  • SeattlePack Dec 17, 2007

    Notorious is right. Farmers are constantly being bailed out by the government. If it doesn't work as a business, then the farmers need to find another line of work. If "it's the only thing they know"' then go get an education. I am sick and tired of opening up my "checkbook" everytime these guys need a hand. Farmers need to start being held accountable. If the weather is bad, or they have a bad year...stop looking to the government and all the taxpayers to BAIL you out again!!!

    Also, do you know that a lot of farmers are paid by the government NOT to grow certain crops? I wrote to my senator to find out what crops would be best NOT to grow. I still have not received a response.

  • cj1979 Dec 17, 2007

    As the saying goes, "Next time you complain about farmers, don't do it with your mouth full."