South Carolina’s estimated agricultural losses from last month’s floods have doubled and farmers statewide are hurting, officials said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers initially estimated losses at $300 million, multiple news media outlets reported. Officials with his agency, however, told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the total agriculture-related losses are now estimated at $587 million.
Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Clint Leach told the panel that South Carolina farmers already faced a difficult year because of a late freeze and a summer drought.
“They are to the point of desperation,” he said.
The news came as the budget-writing committee heard final testimony from agencies and local officials on the flooding’s impact.
Although much of the financial cost for repairing damage from the flood has not yet been tallied or released, agricultural officials say they do have estimates.
Rep. Brian White, an Anderson Republican and chairman of the committee, said he believes the state should provide some financial assistance.
“We help other industries,” he said. “It’s time we help farmers too.”
Farmers, Leach said, are not interested in obtaining low-interest loans, the aid being offered by the federal government. Farmers have gone a year without much income, officials said, some already had operating loans and they have no cash flow to pay for additional debt.
Aaron Wood, an assistant agriculture commissioner, told the panel that while many farmers have crop insurance, it’s inadequate for a natural disaster like this flood.
Farmers are frustrated by the bureaucracy and depressed, Wood said.
“Losing a home is bad,” he said. “But losing a job and income potential is hopeless. This is a food and economic security emergency.”
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