ALABAMA FARMERS FEDERATION SEEKS HELP FOR FARMERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The Alabama Farmers Federation is working with local, state and federal officials to assess the agricultural damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and speed relief to farmers in need.
Federation President Jerry A. Newby said the organization's top priority is helping its members recover from the storm as quickly as possible.
"Hurricane Katrina has brought unprecedented devastation to the Gulf Coast, and our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors who have lost loved ones and had their homes and businesses destroyed by this terrible storm," Newby said. "While we join all Americans in reaching out to the those who have been hurt or displaced by Katrina, the Alabama Farmers Federation also is working hard to secure assistance for farmers whose crops were damaged by the hurricane."
The Alabama Farmers Federation has been working with its members as well as officials with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to assess the impact of the storm on agriculture. Preliminary reports indicate an almost total loss for pecan and produce growers in southwest Alabama. In addition, damage to greenhouse and nursery crops exceeds that from Hurricane Ivan. Row crop farmers in the western part of the state fear that, if they are able to harvest their wind-battered cotton and corn, it will be of lower quality and yield. There also are reports of barns that were destroyed, and poultry houses that sustained mild to moderate damage.
Newby said the presidential disaster declaration will trigger the availability of low-interest loans for farmers as well as the activation of the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides cost-share assistance to help farmers clean up downed trees and repair fences. In addition, the Federation is encouraging Alabama's congressional delegation to provide leadership for a supplemental appropriations bill that would provide crop disaster assistance to farmers with yield and quality losses.
Newby also praised Alabama Atty. Gen. Troy King's decision to relax restrictions on the use of off-road diesel fuel and is encouraging state and federal officials to extend these exemptions and take whatever action is necessary to ensure farmers have enough fuel to harvest and transport their crops.
"Farmers, like all Americans, are very concerned about cost and availability of fuel," Newby said. "It takes hundreds of gallons of fuel for farmers to harvest their crops, and shortages could make what's already a bad situation even worse. Agriculture is not only Alabama's number-one industry, it also is the lifeblood of our rural communities. When farmers suffer an economic disaster, it affects the whole state."
In addition to working with government officials, the Federation has put out a call to its members for generators to help dairy farmers in the Gulf Coast region who have lost electrical service needed to power milking machines and refrigerated storage tanks. The Federation, along with the Alfa companies, also is calling on members, employees and affiliated county Farmers Federations to make contributions to the American Red Cross. The Federation has agreed to match the contributions of its employees and county Federations.
For farmers and rural communities hit hard by Katrina, the American Farm Bureau has established the Hurricane Ag Fund, which will provide longer-term assistance to those involved in agriculture.
The Federation encourages farmers who have sustained damage to contact their local Farm Service Agency office. Those wishing to make a donation to American Red Cross should call 1-800-HELP-NOW or visit www.redcross.org. To contribute to the American Farm Bureau Hurricane Ag Fund, send checks to AFBFA/Hurricane Ag Fund, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20024.
Watch for more updates about ongoing relief efforts for farmers at www.alfafarmers.org.