By Debra Davis
Five southeast Alabama counties have been declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from damage caused by Hurricane Michael, Gov. Kay Ivey announced today. Ivey made the request Oct. 15, following the storm that devastated parts of Alabama, Florida and Georgia, wreaking havoc on homes, businesses and farms. The primary counties are Barbour, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike counties.
“I am very grateful to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue and USDA for responding quickly to our request to aid our farmers impacted by Hurricane Michael,” Ivey said. “Alabama’s agriculture industry is very important to our state as a whole, but even more importantly, it’s essential to the livelihood of our farmers. Alabamians are quick to lend a helping hand to our neighbors in need, and as governor, I will continue doing all I can to help our hardworking men and women find success.”
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell praised the governor for seeking help for Alabama’s farmers and all those affected by the storm.
“We appreciate Governor Ivey’s quick response to this agricultural disaster and her commitment to help farmers recover,” Parnell said. “This declaration authorizes the use of existing USDA emergency programs and clears the way for additional disaster aid. Hurricane Michael spoiled hopes for a bumper cotton crop, flattened miles of fence and destroyed thousands of acres of timber. Our farmers are thankful for the help and encouragement they’ve received from the Trump administration, Alabama’s Congressional delegation and Gov. Ivey, as well as countless neighbors and volunteers.”
The secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those contiguous to (bordering) such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The seven contiguous counties are: Bullock, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Montgomery and Russell counties.
Earlier today, Perdue met with U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan and area farmers in Houston County south of Dothan to view storm damage and discuss USDA’s assistance in the recovery process.
“Secretary Perdue is a friend to Alabama, and he understands that our farmers need help in the recovery and rebuilding efforts ahead,” Roby said. “I appreciate his action to make available the proper resources and assistance for these hardworking men and women who have suffered tremendous loss to their livelihoods. We are committed to getting this done quickly and correctly.”
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.
McMillan emphasized the importance of the official declaration.
“Hurricane Michael left thousands of acres of farmland in complete devastation,” he said. “I applaud FSA and USDA officials for their timely response to an agriculturally rich sector of our state. The financial support provided through this designation will help our producers pick up the pieces and continue their operations in the future.”
Local FSA offices can provide more information. Click here to find a local USDA service centers.