Hurricanes

NC agriculture chief: 'We lost payday this year'

Posted September 13, 2011
Updated September 15, 2011

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— North Carolina farms suffered "terrible losses" in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and the state needs to take short- and long-term steps to help farmers, who face "totally inadequate" federal disaster response, the state's agriculture chief says.

"We lost payday in agriculture this year," State Agriculture Steve Troxler declared to lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee Tuesday morning.

Crop losses accounted for $320 million of the more than $400 million in estimated damage from Irene in North Carolina. That compounds damage already done by drought and the tornadoes that struck in April, Troxler said.

The long-lasting, slow-moving hurricane, which struck on Aug. 27, dumped over a foot of rain and blew hurricane-force winds for over 18 hours in some places. The storm flooded farmlands, shredded crops where they stood in the fields, ripped apart farm buildings and left standing water that rotted crops.

"Friends in eastern North Carolina tell me it smells like a garbage dumpster that you have throw in rotten vegetables from all the rotting crops in the fields," Troxler said.

Irene's damage lowered statewide crop yields for tobacco by about a quarter, for cotton by more than 12 percent and for corn by 4 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture preliminary estimates.

Troxler described one farmer who lost 100,000 bushels of harvested and stored corn, when winds ripped the roof off a grain bin and dumped 15 inches of rain inside it.

"He actually got robbed going to the bank. He had gotten it out of the field, had it in storage, and the only thing left to do was sell it," the agriculture secretary said.

House hears from state ag chief on Irene damage State agriculture details Irene damage

Troxler urged lawmakers to step up state disaster relief effort for farmers, saying that federal response is too slow. Federal loans often require collateral that disaster-hit farmers don't have, and other loan programs are backlogged for two years, he said. 

"We don't want this to be the final straw that runs farm families off the farm. We don't want this to see this agriculture infrastructure that we have in place," Troxler said.

He proposed that lawmakers set aside $25 million to help farmers guarantee up to $125 million in private loans to bridge the time until federal money comes in. The loans would also be available to farmers affected by the April tornadoes and the closing of Townsends Inc. chicken plants in Siler City and Mocksville.

Troxler didn't have an estimate of how much the loan program might end up costing the state, but said that, given the financial strain on the state, it was the most fiscally responsible response he could think of.

He also proposed that lawmakers:

  • create a state assistance fund for agriculture disasters, modeled on programs in Missouri and Louisiana
  • set up strike teams to help farmers in the immediate aftermath of disasters. Using existing resources in the Agriculture Department, the teams could help restore power to farms, corral livestock, repair fences and put tarps on grain bins, Troxler said.
  • give the State Agriculture Board authority to suspend certain rules, such as width and weight restrictions on vehicles, to help farmers salvage crops after disasters. The board is composed of the agriculture secretary and members appointed by the governor.
  • train youthful offenders to help respond to agriculture disasters, modeled on a state program that trains them to aid in fighting forest fires in western North Carolina

"This is a terrible disaster that's going to take a response not only from the feds but from the state, as well, to recover," Troxler said.

Farmers seeking recovery aid can call a state hotline at 866-506-6222 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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  • Plenty Coups Sep 13, 2011

    "Comparing how they were portraying it to be and how it was in actuality he is prob correct. Or did you hear him say there was no damage of anykind any where?"

    No, he blamed the hype on the "liberals"and said that Obama wanted it to be worse than it was. Complete nonsense. Dozens of people did die and billions of dollars of damage were realized. If the media didn't report on the storm, they would have been criticized. How convenient for him that he can just blame the media when something doesn't pan out.

    http://news.yahoo.com/rush-limbaugh-blames-media-hurricane-irene-hysteria-225118612.html

  • RM24 Sep 13, 2011

    And for everyone screaming about "should have had insurance", most did. Remind me how that insurance check taste cooked up and placed on your table instead of the crops they replaced. And do not ne crying when food prices are doubled because of the demand. What goes around always comes back around.

  • RM24 Sep 13, 2011

    I'd rather keep my money and decide how to use it myself than have it go to farmers who can and should buy crop insurance.

    And since it's funneled through the govt, don't forget that the entire bureaucracy will dip into it before it gets to the farmer.
    storchheim

    You can't get enough insurance to cover all that's needed. But I agree with you to a point. Its just going to be a long bad day when no farms are left. Guess everyone can fill up on crow.

  • RM24 Sep 13, 2011

    I just want to be there to watch you beg for a morsel and tell you "Not on MY tax dollar fool". Someone please snatch these republicans' incomes out from under them and turn your backs on them at every opportunity.....
    bigal02282

    Its not the republicans you have to worry about. The democrats are the ones with their hand out. And you definately do not have to worry about the farmers begging you for food either.

  • akatonitots Sep 13, 2011

    I see plenty of produce grown in NC. Of course most of it is in my local smaller supermarkets. Food Lion around here has started carrying more NC grown produce. I never have any trouble finding NC grown fruit and vegetables.

  • storchheim Sep 13, 2011

    "I would much rather my tax $$$ go to those such as farmers than those who do nothing all day and refuse to work." - RM24

    I'd rather keep my money and decide how to use it myself than have it go to farmers who can and should buy crop insurance.

    And since it's funneled through the govt, don't forget that the entire bureaucracy will dip into it before it gets to the farmer.

  • bigal02282 Sep 13, 2011

    What total simpletons on here. "I don't wanna" and "not with my taxes you don't" etc. ad nauseum. Those same simpletons will be the first to complain if for any reason the price of food, gas or their cable goes up. Well, the time is a comin' when you aren't going to HAVE any food, gas or anything else you want. Oh, you'll have your gun and some ammo, but try eating that. I just want to be there to watch you beg for a morsel and tell you "Not on MY tax dollar fool". Someone please snatch these republicans' incomes out from under them and turn your backs on them at every opportunity.....

  • RM24 Sep 13, 2011

    But Rush Limbaugh said Hurricane Irene was just a bunch of hyperbole by the liberal media. This therefore, must not be an accurate report. Just like global warming.
    Plenty Coups

    Comparing how they were portraying it to be and how it was in actuality he is prob correct. Or did you hear him say there was no damage of anykind any where?

  • Plenty Coups Sep 13, 2011

    But Rush Limbaugh said Hurricane Irene was just a bunch of hyperbole by the liberal media. This therefore, must not be an accurate report. Just like global warming.

  • RM24 Sep 13, 2011

    I don't want to supplement their businesses with my taxes though.
    smbiz

    Me either. But its not about wants, sometimes its necessity. Rather help someone providing me a service I need than many others doing nothing.

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