Local News

NC farmers won't see federal assistance for Irene until 2012

Posted October 19, 2011 5:44 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2011 7:53 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina crop farmers likely won't get federal assistance for the $300 million in crop damage caused by Hurricane Irene until next year.

That leaves farmers like Bert Pitt left unsure of what to do until then.

Pitt, who owns of Pitt Farms in Macclesfield in Edgecombe County, lost half of his tobacco crop and 40 percent of his cotton crop when the Category 1 hurricane hit the eastern part of the state in August.

Insurance, he said, is expected to cover 75 percent of his crop loss, but that doesn't factor in lost hours for employees.

"The people that (work in tobacco) depend on the tobacco work for their income to send their kids to school, buy their school clothes and all that," Pitt said. "They were out of a job. They lost 50 percent of their income, too. It's not just me."

He's not alone. Edgecombe farmers sustained $43 million in crop damage.

They can apply for federal assistance through the Farm Service Agency, but unlike damage to homes, they will not see money for their crop damage until some time next year. 

"Right now, they're still in the process of taking applications for 2010," Pitt said.

Most of those claims relate to damage from last year's drought.

"So, that's not the answer to get money in the farmers hands quickly," he added.

State and federal officials are in the process of meeting with farmers to hear their concerns.

Former Congressman Bob Etheridge, who's in charge of North Carolina's efforts to recover from Irene, says he will head to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress for more immediate financial help for farmers.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has also been lobbying the General Assembly for emergency funding that could help farmers, spokesman David Smith said, but the legislature doesn't reconvene until November.