The devastation caused by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 may be the final blow to the agriculture industry in Michael’s path. Suffering from crop loss, equipment loss and structural damages many farmers have very limited alternatives to be able to continue farming operations
Farmers do not quality for SBA Loans because there are no loans for agriculture, they do not qualify for FEMA because their gross income is too high and, in most cases, farmers are maxed out on their primary loans. It does not appear there is any disaster federal legislation on the horizon that would provide relief.
If relief is not made available in the next two months, many farmers will be unable to plant crops and failure to do so may force some into bankruptcy and others to leave the agriculture industry.
Agriculture is a major industry in Jackson County and the negative impact on agriculture to the overall economy combined with the damage to other sectors in the economy will result in another disaster that will further prevent Jackson County’s economic recovery.
There is one possible alternative that may provide a temporary bridge that may enable farmers to survive until a possible permanent solution can be worked out. Time is of the essence for Florida Legislative action.
Senator George Gainer, vice-chair of the Agricultural Committee, represents Jackson and surrounding counties is filing a bill with his agriculture committee to provide low interest loans to hurricane impacted farmers to be used for recovery which would in turn allow our local farmers to begin planting a new crop before the June 1, 2019 seasonal crop.
In an interview with Senator Gainer, he related he knew this was not a permanent solution for farmers, however because the window of opportunity to get a new crop of peanuts, cotton, corn and other crops planted this spring is so small and rapidly closing, timely legislative action is of utmost importance.
Senator Gainer is hopeful he will have the support of the Governor, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate because this one opportunity will require their support in getting his bill expedited through the legislative committee hearing process and voted upon by both the full House and Senate during the first two weeks of the legislative Session, which begins March 5, 2019.