SC governor asks feds for rain disaster relief

abeam@thestate.com, jholleman@thestate.comAugust 16, 2013 

The heavy rains in Paril 2013 left this field near Batesburg-Leesville with extra, unwanted water.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— S.C. farmers with damaged crops from this year’s excessive rains could apply for low-interest loans from the federal government if the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves Gov. Nikki Haley’s request for a “secretarial disaster” designation.

Haley will travel to Harleyville in Dorchester County on Monday to tour some of the rain-related damage at Pendarvis Farms, her office announced Friday. Haley will be joined by S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers along with Harry Ott, executive director of the state’s federal farm service agency, and Larry McKenzie, a S.C. Farm Bureau representative.

This has been an extraordinarily wet summer throughout South Carolina, including wettest on record in Florence with 23.96 inches of rain since June 1, and Greenville-Spartanburg, with 27.28 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Orangeburg, the nearest National Weather Service station to Harleyville, has been hit with 22.47 inches since June 1, or 9.36 inches more than normal for that period. And that doesn’t include the drenching rain on Friday.

Just six months ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared several counties natural disaster areas because of drought, including Dorchester County.

Ott said the rain has made many fields too wet to harvest wheat, which prevented farmers from planting other crops, like soybeans.

“There is thousands of acres of land, particularly down around Dorchester and Lee counties, where those farmers aren’t going to get anything planted,” Ott said.

Ott said 36 of the state’s 46 counties have had at least a 30 percent loss on one crop, making them eligible to apply for federal disaster relief. The other 10 counties would also be eligible for federal relief because they are contiguous to the eligible counties.

“It doesn’t necessarily guarantee a farmer is going to get one of those loans,” Ott said. “Each loan has to be looked at individually.”

A “secretarial disaster” designation is the most common disaster designation, one step down from a presidential disaster declaration.

South Carolina is the only state since 2007 that has not had a presidential disaster declaration, according to a recent report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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