Published: 2011-09-07 07:02:00
Updated: 2011-09-07 19:57:00
Posted September 7, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The state Board of Agriculture met Wednesday to figure out how it can help farmers affected by Hurricane Irene.
Crop losses accounted for $320 million of the more than $400 million in estimated damage from Irene in North Carolina. Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler said about three-quarters of the state's tobacco, corn and soybeans and almost all its cotton are grown east of Interstate 95, where the storm flooded fields and flattened crops.
"It was late crops because of the drought and the heat that we've suffered this summer," Troxler said. "We had gotten to the point where the crops were beginning to look pretty good, and then, of course, this happens. So, a lot of farmers almost feel like they got robbed on the way to the bank." Troxler: Irene's damage 'severe'
According to early federal estimates, tobacco was hit hardest, both in the fields and in barns. Wilson farmer Pender Sharpe said his family farm alone lost 300 barns of tobacco.
Federal insurance can help the farmers, but it doesn't cover the full value of their crops. Other federal help can take more than a year to arrive, Troxler said.
He called on state lawmakers to consider putting up $20 million to guarantee private loans that would help farmers bridge that gap. He also wants to suspend transportation and environmental rules before and after hurricanes to help farmers trying to salvage their crops.
The recommendations will be presented to the General Assembly next week.
The state also has launched a 24-hour hotline for farmers seeking recovery aid at 866-506-6222.