GORDON, AL (WSFA) - U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-AL, was in the Wiregrass Tuesday talking with agriculture experts about what was lost in Hurricane Michael and financial aid next steps.
The morning started with a briefing at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center where Jones was updated on damage. He spoke with bankers and representatives from Alabama’s Agriculture Commission. It’s estimated the Wiregrass has over $200 million in direct agriculture loss.
Jones toured cotton crop damage on Jeff McCallister’s farm in Gordon. He has crop loss on all 900 acres - a roughly $1 million financial hit. Standing in McCallister’s damaged cotton field, talks started about what farmers need now and what can be done.
“We don’t have the same kind of FEMA-like protections for farmers that we have for condos, houses, or commercial buildings,” said Jones, “We have to figure out a way to help on an immediate basis.”
Jones noted it is important to get hard hit areas declared disaster areas. McCallister says farmers hope to get help based off percentages of crop loss.
“You’re getting paid for what you lost. If you lost big, you get paid big. If you lost a little, you get paid a little," said McCallister, who is hoping the federal government will step in and step up in ways they’ve helped when other industries were hurting.
“There’s so many times the auto industry and the bankers have called onto Congress seeking some kind of bailout funds to where they’ve over limited themselves,” said McCallister. “We have been hit by disaster. We’ve had things that have hit us, so we need something to help us get back on our feet.”
Senator Jones says the financial assistance he wants to provide is both short-term and long-term to help farmers recover. He says he plans to work other congressional leaders from Georgia and Florida - also impacted by the storm - to determine financial solutions.
“The main thing is getting with other cotton producing states. Other senators, members of Congress to try and get out heads around this,” said Jones.
He said he doesn’t have a timeline for when farmers could see help come in, but noted leaders go back in session after the election and that gives them some time to work.