Published on 10/19/18

Important agriculture disaster assistance meeting to be held at UGA-Tifton

By Clint Thompson

All farmers with crops affected by Hurricane Michael are invited to attend an agriculture disaster assistance information session at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center at 2 p.m. Monday, October 22.

UGA Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will host the event, which will feature speakers from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, and Risk Management Agency, as well as the Georgia Forestry Commission, Southwest Georgia Farm Credit and Rep. Austin Scott. Each organization will provide updates and information regarding disaster programs that are available to producers impacted by the hurricane.

“During a time of disaster, it is important that farmers know where to turn to for assistance. This meeting will provide timely and important updates on USDA disaster assistance programs that are available for farmers,” said Adam Rabinowitz, UGA Extension economist.

The storm hit south Georgia on October 10-11, causing more than $3 billion in losses to Georgia agriculture, the state’s No. 1 industry.

Georgia’s pecan industry suffered a $560 million loss, including $260 million in lost trees that were uprooted during the storm. Georgia’s cotton losses range from $300 to $800 million in lost lint and seed. Damage to Georgia’s peanut infrastructure, including buying points and peanut shellers, will force a delay in peanut harvest this fall.

“For many, this was the worst storm they have experienced in this area, thus a great relief for lives that were spared. Unfortunately, the toll that has been taken on crops and infrastructure is significant. After a few years of low prices and decreases in net farm income, there was hope in some farming communities that a bumper crop would improve financial outlooks,” Rabinowitz said. “Having to experience a disaster like this will involve a difficult or impossible recovery for some farmers.”

Rabinowitz said the best course of action farmers can take is to document all damage.

“Keep photographs of damages and records of all expenses related to cleanup and recovery. It is also important to communicate in the early stages with crop insurance agents, federal agencies such as the local FSA, and lenders,” Rabinowitz said.

The Georgia Forestry Commission estimates that 1 million acres were damaged or destroyed and the financial loss is $1 billion. The FSA has a disaster program called the Emergency Forest Restoration Program to assist for losses.

“Hurricane Michael has caused massive devastation to Georgia’s agricultural economy and it is critical for the USDA to be a partner and to update producers on the benefits of our program during this critical time,” said Tas Smith, state executive director for FSA Georgia. “Producers needing assistance should contact their local USDA service center.”

For more information, contact the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at UGA-Tifton at 229-386-3512 or the Georgia FSA at 706-546-2269.

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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