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Relief in sight for state's drought-afflicted farmers

Posted May 12, 2008

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— The rains have come. The lakes are full again. But the drought is still alive and well at many North Carolina farms.

Warren and Sally Coad, who own Freedom Farms in Louisburg, have had to take on second jobs to offset costs that come with keeping their herd of 75 cattle fed.

"Our credit card bills are through the roof," Sally Coad said.

Unlike many livestock farmers who sold their animals as the cost of hay went up to three or four times what most farmers were used to, the Coads vowed to keep their full herd.

"This is our commitment," Warren Coad said. "We're going to stick to it."

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture estimates the drought cost farmers, like the Coads, more than $500 million, and that number keeps increasing.

But relief is in sight.

They are among a large number of farmers who will be applying through the North Carolina Agriculture Drought Recovery Program – made possible by a $6 million grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

“This grant makes it possible for more than 1,000 farmers and farm operations to restore some of the damage from last summer’s severe drought and to prepare so the next long, hot and dry summer doesn’t do as much damage,” said Billy Ray Hall, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.

The program covers 75 percent of the cost of restoring drought-damaged pastures, renovating and constructing new farm ponds and drilling and re-drilling wells.

"Some of our pastures are so far gone, I'm not real clear on what needs to be done," Sally Coad said.

The program, which began May 1, is being administered statewide through the s 96 Soil and Water Conservation district offices. (Find the office nearest you.) It is open to farmers with an adjusted gross income of less than $250,000, or those who derive 75 percent of their income from farming operations.

Like many farmers, Sally Coads says she hopes her field is eligible for a grant.

"It's much needed, much wanted and much appreciated," she said.

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  • madman May 13, 2008

    Well, if you'll read the story, it says the money is coming from a grant funded by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. That's not tax-funded money. That's tobacco company funded money.

  • The Hammer May 13, 2008

    I live in Johnston County and was raised in eastern NC. I have been around this farm-aristocracy all my life. Some of the richest families in this state get huge checks from the govt. that would choke a mule, their mule if they had one. Unfortunately most have never seen a mule, or a tractor for that matter. My Congressman, Bobby Etheridge goes on the radio talking about any subject, education for example, and by golly he'll mention farmers and how tough they have it and how we need to do more to protect our "family farms". You know why? Because the first check a farmer (or more likely a business who owns a farm) writes every month is to his Congressman.
    Keep those checks for NOT growing sorgum, or sugar cane or beet roots or flax coming Bobby. The kid wants a Beamer.

  • SomeRandomGuy May 12, 2008

    The "drought" cost farmers 500 Million, and now there is a grant for SIX million. I hope they aren't expecting to get much.

  • BULLDOZER May 12, 2008

    Madman. What do you mean it's not taxpayers money? All money government uses is ours. Thye produce nothing.

  • bngexpress May 12, 2008

    hey ! i cannot afford the price of fuel to run my business,who's going to help me?

  • doodad May 12, 2008

    Farmers who run more than one beef cow unit (cow/calf pair) per acre SHOULD NOT BE ELIGIBLE.

  • madman May 12, 2008

    It's not tax payers money.

  • fredssmithisnotmysenator May 12, 2008

    Lots of people have credit card bills through the roof and also are having a hard time making ends meet...where is the bailout for them? I agree...sink or swim or diversify!

  • Wags May 12, 2008

    Nothing against the farmers, but they can get grants if they cleared $250,000 last year?? Not a bad deal. Farming seems to be the one business you can own and have the government bail you out when you lose money.

  • BULLDOZER May 12, 2008

    I am in the building development business. Where is our subsidy?? I am so tired of the farmers getting bailed out. If you can't make it through the tough times, then go into another line of work. The last year has been rough in my industry and i don't hear anyone looking out for us. Stop the handouts. Sink or swim.