AL congressional leaders line up behind farmers hit by Hurricane Michael

AL farmers hurt by Hurricane Michael asking for federal help

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Hurricane Michael’s winds and rain destroyed the farms of thousands of farmers in the wiregrass region.

“It’s devastating. We lost a lot of trees, we lost a lot of fences, we lost cotton, as well as peanuts, buildings," said Sammy Williams. "It’s something that we’ve taken a lifetime to build, not the crops but the infrastructure, and it was damaged pretty badly.”

Williams and his family own Circle W Farms in Henry County. They estimate the farm will lose around $800,000 because of the hurricane’s damage. They are a multi-purpose farm with products including cotton, timber, peanuts, and livestock.

“You try to find the best way to finance the next year’s crop,” he said. “You cut some corners. You don’t go Cadillac you go Ford Pinto.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated five Alabama counties as Primary Natural Disaster Areas in November. This allows farmers in the area to apply for low-interest loans from the federal government.

“The loans are helpful, but could put farmers in a tougher financial position going into next year’s growing system,” said Mitt Walker, the Director of National Affairs for Alabama Farmers Federation.

Williams said he might not apply for the low-interest loans, because he would need to put up collateral.

“They will loan you the money, but they say we need to put your land on it or we need to put something that you don’t owe money on, on it as a base to return it,” he said.

ALFA said it is working with the state, Alabama’s congressional delegation and other groups to ask congress for more assistance.

U.S. Rep. Mike Roger’s office joined other colleagues on a letter asking House and Senate leadership to provide additional assistance.

"Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi,

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne’s office, R-AL, said he strongly supports additional assistance and plans to participate in a letter as well. He wants congress to pass an assistance bill before the end of the year. He is also talking with the USDA to provide more assistance including aid for SNAP recipients, damaged conservation land and infrastructure grants and loans.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby gave the following statement:

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, I have been on the ground in the Wiregrass on several occasions, most recently with USDA Secretary Perdue, to assess the damage to our local agriculture and hear directly from our farmers about what they are facing. These hardworking men and women need assistance in the rebuilding process, and it is imperative that these Alabama farmers be prioritized in any recovery efforts. I am committed to working alongside my colleagues in Congress to deliver meaningful help to these individuals who have suffered tremendous loss to their livelihoods.”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby

“We would love for the government to help us out a little bit but there are other people that need help too. And as bad as we are, we’re not as bad as Georgia," said Williams.

In addition to the low-interest loans, the USDA could approve more aid for SNAP recipients, damaged conservation land and infrastructure grants and loans.

But whether Williams receives federal aid or not, one things is for sure, he wants to stay optimistic.

“We’re just going to go again. Try it again," he said. “Maybe next year will be better."

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