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S.C. House budget chief hopes to aid farmers

Farmland in Horry County and the surrounding area is still covered in water following caused by heavy rains in October.
Farmland in Horry County and the surrounding area is still covered in water following caused by heavy rains in October. tglantz@thestate.com

The S.C. House’s chief budget writer plans to introduce a bill to aid S.C. farmers, whose crops were washed away during October’s historic flooding.

The amount of state money that S.C. House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, will propose to send to farmers is undecided. However, S.C. farmers lost more than $375 million in damaged crops, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“Agriculture is our No. 1 industry and our farmers are in desperate need,” White said in a news release. He added crop insurance is insufficient to insure against catastrophic losses from a natural disaster.

State Agriculture commissioner Hugh Weathers told a state Senate panel earlier this month that only about a third of crop losses are expected to be covered by insurance. That leaves about $250 million in losses that insurance will not cover.

Farm groups have urged Gov. Nikki Haley to request assistance for farmers from the state’s congressional delegation. But Haley’s office has said that request is for direct cash payments to farmers who chose to be underinsured.

Federal assistance for farmers is a possibility, White said. Otherwise, he added, many farmers could lose their farms and livelihoods.

Haley has said she will request $114 million from state lawmakers for flood costs. She also is asking the federal government for $140 million to repair flood-damaged housing.

Farm Bureau president Harry Ott said he was encouraged by White’s support.

Farmers who had insurance still are going to sustain significant losses, said Ott, a former S.C. House minority leader. Ott added some farmers are afraid they will not have the money to get new crops in the ground by spring.

“Nobody is going to be made whole in this process under any stretch of the imagination,” Ott said. “There are still going to be serious financial repercussions from this.”

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

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