Disaster relief bill finally signed

Published 3:05 pm Friday, June 7, 2019

President Donald Trump put pen to paper on disaster relief legislation Monday that will benefit Southwest Georgia as it continues to recover from Hurricane Michael.

The $19.1 billion disaster relief bill includes an appropriation of just over $3 billion for farmers who suffered crop loss from Hurricane Michael last October. It is estimated that Hurricane Michael left $2.5 billion of agricultural damage in its wake. Many farmers desperately need funds to pay off loans to close out the 2018 crop year.

Bainbridge farmer Tommy Dollar predicted that most farmers will use the money to pay bills before worrying about catching up on yields.

“This year is just trying to get by instead of getting a maximum yield,” said Dollar. “This first year it’s going to be trying to catch up on the bills from last year. They’ll have some money to get back in good standings with their creditors. Then they will start buying equipment.”

Georgia Farm Bureau president and Decatur County resident Gerald Long applauded President Trump’s determination in getting the bill signed.

“Georgia Farm Bureau is grateful that President Trump quickly signed the bill into law,” said Long. “Hopefully the funds authorized in this bill will help Georgia farmers struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael put the storm behind them and move forward with doing what they do best – producing a safe and plentiful food supply for their fellow citizens.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also thanks Trump for his commitment to Georgia farmers and others impacted by Hurricane Michael.

“The process to get to this point has taken far too long, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the Georgia congressional delegation and the president’s support, our farm families can breathe a bit easier today,” said Kemp. “It’s now time to focus on rebuilding livelihoods devastated by Hurricane Michael and ensuring these hardworking Georgians have a bright, prosperous future.”

The key components of the bill include:

USDA office of the secretary

USDA was allotted $3.005 billion to assist with the loss of crops because of Hurricanes Michael and Florence, as well as other natural disasters occurring in the 2018 and 2019 calendar years. Funding will be available until Dec. 31, 2020. A provision is also included for losses of peach and blueberry crops from extreme cold and hurricane damage in 2017 and 2018. Orchardists and pecan tree growers may receive payments if their tree mortality rate is over 7.5% and below 15% (adjusted for normal mortality) in calendar year 2018.

Farm Service Agency

$480 million to help owners of non-industrial private forests restore forest health, under the Emergency Forest Restoration program.

$558 million for the Emergency Conservation Program which helps farmers and ranchers recover damaged farmland and install methods for water conservation during a severe drought.

$435 million for watershed protection and flood prevention practices to assist with rural watershed recovery.

Rural Development

$150 million for Rural Development Community Facilities Grants, which assist small rural communities in improving and repairing essential public services and facilities.