A deadline expired Monday for those South Carolina farmers who were affected by last fall’s record rainfall and are seeking a share of the $40 million offered in state aid.
Applications to the state Department of Agriculture had to be postmarked by Monday for farmers in 42 affected counties who are seeking the aid. Those in Cherokee, Oconee, and Pickens counties have until Sept. 6 to apply because federal officials did not declare a disaster in those counties and they were not made eligible until last month. Jasper County is the lone county in South Carolina where farmers are not eligible, since the region largely escaped damage from last October’s storms.
Eligible farmers must have lost at least 40 percent of their crops in the flooding. The state Department of Agriculture, which is overseeing the grants, says flooding wiped out $330 million worth of crops at harvest time, and farmers lost an additional $45 million because soggy fields prevented many from planting winter crops. Farmers can apply for grants to cover up to 20 percent of their loss or $100,000, whichever is lower.
A state Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said the agency is not releasing total funding requests until next month due to the time it takes to process the applications and the three counties who have not reached their deadline.
Legislators approved $40 million in total aid over the objections of Gov. Nikki Haley, who believed the grants benefitted one industry over other businesses that were also affected. Haley vetoed the bill in May, but lawmakers overrode her by wide margins.
Decisions about the grants will be made by a new Farm Aid Board composed largely of members appointed by the Agriculture Secretary and state Department of Revenue director. Secretary Hugh Weathers has said the board has been told to try to match each eligible request, meaning all farmers who meet the requirements should receive at least some assistance, even if it is less than they sought.