Southeast AgNet and other news outlets have been talking about both the Florida House and Senate proposed spending plans for next year’s budget. Some of those dollars are earmarked for restoration and debris cleanup in the counties across Northwest Florida that suffered the devastation from Hurricane Michael last October.
But according to a recent opinion article in the Tallahassee Democrat from a Jackson County farmer, forgotten are the family farms that collectively make up our state’s peanut and cotton industry. For the rural counties in the Panhandle, agriculture is the backbone and lifeblood of the entire economy.
Not only were entire crops lost just days before what was to be a better than average harvest season, the loans given to the individual farmers from area financial institutions pledged against the harvest yields are also in jeopardy.
In the state of Georgia, where many farms were also devastated by Hurricane Michael, emergency legislation was passed that created a $50-million-dollar loan fund. It will allow farmers to keep their bank loans alive for one more year while they get a new crop of peanuts and cotton in the ground.
But in Florida, the new budget won’t take effect until July 1, so discussing funding relief efforts really doesn’t help these family farms trying to get a crop in the ground within the next few weeks.
Thus some are asking and hoping a source of funds from our current year’s budget can be allocated for an emergency loan program that farmers can use and pay back in the coming harvest years.