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Alabama Wiregrass Area Continues Hurricane Recovery

Alabama Wiregrass Area Continues Hurricane Recovery
November 28, 2018 |

Alabama farmers and rural landowners are working hard to recover from Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm that tore through southeast Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia Oct. 10. In addition to extensive structural damage, the storm pelted cotton and peanut crops, downed fences, scattered cattle and snapped timber.

Henry County farmer Sammy Williams said while crop insurance will help soften the blow, it won’t make up for crops many Wiregrass farmers were expecting to be the best in years.

“We’ll have to pick whatever cotton there is in the field for insurance to pay,” said Williams, who farms near Columbia and also raises peanuts and cattle. “Crop insurance is based on a 10-year average and pays 80 percent of that average. This year would have been an above-average crop and a good peanut crop, but the payout will be on the 10-year average. It’s probably going to be a loss of $250,000 in profits for me on my cotton crop.”

Officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) estimate state timber losses at nearly $20 million, with the most damage in Houston County. AFC aerial surveys indicate over 42,300 forested acres had storm damage.

President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the state Nov. 5. Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is available in Geneva, Henry, Houston and Mobile counties. To assist farmers, the Alabama Farmers Federation and federal and state officials are working to secure further disaster declarations from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

At the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 16 in Moultrie, Georgia, Perdue and Vice President Mike Pence pledged to help farmers recover from the storm. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service has programs available to help some farmers. Other programs could be announced by USDA.

To help farmers rebuild, the Federation also established a relief fund.

“Farmers in south Alabama received an outpouring of support from neighbors and people across the country,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “Many asked where they can donate to help farmers who’ve lost their crops and barns, so we created a special fund within the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation to accept these gifts.”

Farm relief donations are tax deductible and can be made at AlabamaFarmersFoundation.org or send checks payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation to P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. Please designate Hurricane Relief on checks.

“Hurricane Michael devastated crops, homes, barns and livelihoods in the Wiregrass,” said Parnell, who is also president of the foundation. “Farmers are resilient, but recovery takes time and money. Alabama farmers are grateful for financial help from friends and supporters — and covet your thoughts and prayers during the rebuilding process.”

All funds collected by the Foundation through Nov. 30 will be targeted toward farmer losses not covered by a farmowner policy, crop insurance or disaster relief programs.

For more information, contact the Foundation at (334) 612-5525 or email abutts@alfafarmers.org.

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