Farmers hopeful for disaster relief funds

Disaster Relief Farmer Reaction

CLIMAX, Ga. (WALB) - Southwest Georgia farmers could soon get federal money months after Hurricane Michael devastated much of last year’s crops.

More than 200 days ago the storm ripped through Andy Bell’s cotton crop in Climax located in Decatur County last October.

Andy Bell, Decatur County farmer (Source: WALB)
Andy Bell, Decatur County farmer (Source: WALB)

“We can’t go through another year like last year," said Bell.

He was disheartened.

“Probably one of our best cotton crops we ever had. Totally destroyed. We did not harvest any," he said.

He has 2,200 acres of row crops that all took a beating from the storm.

Buddy Carter, U.S. Representative for Georgia (R) (Source: Gray Television)
Buddy Carter, U.S. Representative for Georgia (R) (Source: Gray Television)

“Most everybody in our area lost their total cotton crop. So crop insurance only makes you 60 or 70 percent whole," he explained, “It takes 90 percent or better to even get close to even. So we’re in the hole. We’ve got to have some support.”

Now a bit of hope with Congress approving a bipartisan disaster relief package worth $19.1 billion dollars helping 12 states and two US territories.

“It’s just sad it took so long to get it with the hurricane back in October. And it’s been months and months and months of just waiting and waiting," Bell stated.

One of Bell's cotton farms in Climax (Source: WALB)
One of Bell's cotton farms in Climax (Source: WALB)

Part of the funding includes three billion dollars for agriculture losses, something he credits Georgia lawmakers like Buddy Carter for pushing hard to help all farmers.

“There’s no question about it. There is money in here for our blueberry farmers. Blueberries are the number one fruit in the state of Georgia now. A billion dollar industry. It’s vital that we get this relief for a blueberry farmers," explained Carter, U.S. Rep. (R), to our Gray TV Washington D.C. bureau reporter.

“We’ll never get back to even with a disaster program or crop insurance. We just got to hope to come close to 75 percent or whatever of back to normal," said Bell.

Last January, Chairman Sanford Bishop, Congressman serving the 2nd District of Georgia (D) and Congressman Austin Scott (R) worked to pass an Emergency Disaster Appropriations bill to help farmers recover from natural disasters.

The Administration responded by releasing a statement of policy opposing the $19.1 billion provided for crop and livestock losses and threatened to veto the disaster relief bill.

“It’s been a tough, tough year. And just glad we’re finally getting some support to try to help our area because Decatur County was hit really hard."

The bill finally passed the Senate by a vote of 85-8 on Monday.

“I can’t say enough about our Georgia delegates: Congressman Bishop, Austin Scott, Buddy Carter and our two senators kept it at the forefront to get something done," said Bell.

Now Bell and other farmers are awaiting the President’s signature so the funds can be distributed from the disaster relief bill.

“I strongly urge the President to sign the disaster bill and do right by all Americans affected by natural disasters.” said Bishop.

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