Gov. Nikki Haley’s office has not yet said if she will follow through on a threat to veto a $40 million aid package for farmers devastated in last fall’s record floods.
The South Carolina House this week signed off on legislation creating a new board that will award grants to those farmers, one week after senators did the same. The board could grant up to $100,000 or 20 percent of a farmer’s loss, whichever is lower. Roughly three dozen House members did not vote in the 85-2 final tally, however supporters have all but guaranteed they now have the votes in both House and Senate to override a prospective veto.
“The House and Senate have passed the Farm Aid bill with overwhelming majorities because we understand the uniquely devastating effect that the 2015 flood had on our state’s vital agricultural industry,” lead sponsor State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said in a statement. “While hundreds of millions of dollars have been available to assist homeowners and small businesses affected by the flood, farmers are in urgent need of assistance to stay in business and to save farms and livelihoods.”
The measure will create an eight-member board appointed largely by Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers and Department of Revenue director Rick Reames. The board will consider all applications from farmers who can document at least a 40 percent commodities loss and are located in counties where the US Agriculture Secretary declared a disaster.
“It helps. Every little bit helps,” said South Carolina Farm Bureau lobbyist Gary Spires. “It will be a lifeline for some of these farms. And we want to help as many of them as we can survive this.”
Haley and her allies in the legislature argue the bill would allow politically-connected farms to get aid not available to other businesses damaged in the October 2015 floods. “I feel bad for the farmers who have been hurt, but I feel bad for the small businesses,” she told reporters in March.
The bill will likely be ratified by legislators next week. It could still become law without the governor’s support. The state constitution gives Haley five days to sign or veto the bill before it automatically takes effect. If she does veto the measure, the House and Senate must override her decision by a two-thirds majority.
The governor’s spokeswoman has not responded to repeated questions about Haley’s intentions from South Carolina Radio Network or other media outlets.