RILEY, BRIGHT URGE DISASTER ASSISTANCE FOR ALABAMA FARMERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Gov. Bob Riley has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting "urgent assistance" for Alabama farmers hit hard by this year's heavy rainfall and flooding.
|Gov. Bob Riley|
"I am writing to request urgent assistance on behalf of all Alabama agricultural producers," Riley's letter began. "Over the past 60 days, as a result of natural disasters and extraordinary rainfall and flooding, large numbers of Alabama agricultural producers, throughout the entire state of Alabama, have been confronted with severe problems regarding actual loss of crops and direct loss of crops because of farmers' inability to harvest same because of wet conditions."
Alabama's U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, who sent his own letter to Vilsack requesting a disaster designation, promptly seconded Riley's request. "I implore you to act quickly to ensure that this disaster designation can be made by the end of the year 2009," Bright wrote.
"Alabama farmers have experienced extreme crop loss due to extreme amounts of rain and flooding," Bright wrote. " The extraordinarily wet conditions have generated over 50 percent loss for some of Alabama's most important crops and disaster relief will serve to mitigate some of the damage Alabama farmers have sustained over the past two months."
Both Riley and Bright requested a disaster declaration for all Alabama counties -- or at least those most heavily hit by the rains.
Farmers had initially anticipated a better-than-normal yield of cotton, soybeans and corn. Instead, unusually heavy rains pounded the state, preventing many farmers from being able to harvest their crops. By the time they were able to get their heavy equipment back into the muddy fields, many of the crops had been damaged or the quality reduced so greatly that farmers received much less for them at the market.
Current Farm Bill rules require farmers who suffer losses this year to wait until January 2011 -- more than a year -- to receive any aid. Commissioner Ron Sparks of the Alabama Department of Agriculture said that's too long, and some farmers could be out of business before that.
"The Alabama Farmers Federation has been working on this for a while, and it's important that Alabama farmers -- particularly those in greatest need -- receive some assistance as quickly as possible" said Buddy Adamson, director of the Federation's Cotton and Wheat and Feed Grains Divisions.
The situation prompted the Alabama Farmers Federation, along with state and federal officials to seek urgent relief. Republican U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker are co-sponsoring legislation that has drawn bi-partisan support and will provide assistance to Mississippi farmers, but Alabama is not included in the bill.
"... The situation here in Alabama is at least comparable to that in Mississippi," Riley wrote in his letter to Vilsack. "The wet conditions are extremely abnormal and are causing Alabama agricultural producers extreme hardship."
Riley went on to ask that Vilsack instruct Daniel Robinson, director of the USDA's Alabama Farm Service Agency, to "proceed as quickly as possible" with a formal damage assessment of all Alabama counties.