The South Carolina Senate Wednesday voted to override Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a farm aid bill designed to help after October’s devastating floods.
Senators voted 39-3 to override the veto. Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said he has seen firsthand the destruction that farmers have suffered. “I have never seen as much widespread devastation as I have seen after that flood last fall,” Leatherman said on the Senate floor Wednesday before the vote.
The House voted 112-2 to override on Tuesday. The $40 million bill allows farmers in disaster-declared counties to apply for grants of up to $100,000, covering no more than 20 percent of their total loss. A newly-formed Farm Aid Board chosen largely by Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers and Department of Revenue director Rick Reames will review and approve the grants.
Not everybody in the Senate spoke in favor of the veto override. “If it’s going to be a matter of who makes the most compelling and emotional story, then we’re going to be having bill, upon bill, after bill being passed to go ahead and address their needs, State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said before the vote. “Because they’ve got good stories, because they are suffering,”
Haley called the legislation a “bailout,” arguing farmers have plenty of other aid options and should not get special treatment that is not available for other small businesses. But South Carolina Farm Bureau President Harry Ott said the governor is mistaken, and that flooded farmers no longer have the capital to obtain emergency loans.
“We are thankful our legislators were able to set aside politics and agree that South Carolina farmers needed their help,” Ott said in a statement.
Affected farmers must meet a list of requirements to even be considered, such as farming in a disaster-declared county with a number issued by the Farm Services Agency and have a loss of at least 40 percent agricultural commodity verified by the Department of Agriculture. Assistance will be capped at 20 percent of total loss or $100,000, whichever is lower. The grants only cover production costs such as seed and fertilizer and cannot be used to pay off debt or for new equipment.