The chief budget writer for the South Carolina House of Representatives plans to introduce a bill next year that would help those farmers who lost most of their crops during October’s historic flooding.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, announced Tuesday he plans to propose legislation that would compensate those farmers whose crop insurance was not enough to cover their storm losses. The state Department of Agriculture has previously estimated at least a $375 million impact in lost or damaged crops.
“We hand out hundreds of millions of dollars every year to other industries as incentives,” White told South Carolina Radio Network. “And we don’t help our farmers in a time of a natural disaster that’s never occurred like this in the state before? They’re absolutely devastated. I don’t understand why we’re not doing it.”
Congress last week voted to split up to $130 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants between South Carolina and other states hit by natural disasters. State Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers told South Carolina Radio Network his office wants to request around $60 million of the pot. Weathers has sided with the South Carolina Farm Bureau in requesting the money, arguing that small farmers lost their ability to finance future plantings.
However, Gov. Nikki Haley has previously indicated she will not seek cash payments for underinsured farmers, considering it a bailout for bad business decisions.
“What the Farm Bureau has asked for is direct cash payments from the federal government to farmers who chose to be under-insured, something that no other industry in the state is asking for or will be receiving,” Haley’s spokeswoman Chaney Adams said in an email earlier this month. The Governor’s Office has not commented since the bill passed last week.
But White disagreed, saying crop insurance only covers a lesser market value of crops that were destroyed. “The farmers are out there in No Man’s Land,” he said. “They didn’t ask for the floods.”
The bill does not state how much money is needed or where funds could be found, but White said the situation is still fluid. He said South Carolina has some contingency funds it could use, if lawmakers approve.