Hurricane Irene Leaves Lasting Scars

On August 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene touched down in North Carolina. Over the next several days, the storm moved across the Carolinas, New York, New Jersey, and New England, eventually causing more than $7 billion of damage nationwide. Faced with these severe losses, farmers have turned to farm loans and federal emergency grants to repair the damage done by the storm.
More than five months after Irene’s landfall, farmers are still struggling to recover. Farmers whose crops were destroyed and whose land was damaged are still in desperate need of emergency farm loans provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In North Carolina, for example, summer tornadoes and the August hurricane led to 35 counties being declared federal disaster zones. Last month, the USDA announced new disaster programs designed to offer struggling farmers low-interest farm loans to help repair damage caused by Irene and pay outstanding debt and production costs.
In addition to federal aid, state governments are offering financial support to struggling farmers. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo created an agricultural aid fund that offers farm grants and farm loans to help struggling farmers and ranchers recover from the damage caused by Irene.  According to Cuomo, “it is our intention to provide some needed assistance to [farmers] as they work to get back on their feet and begin planning out their 2012 growing season.”
The recent uptick in disaster-related farm loans is not limited to Hurricane Irene alone. Last spring and summer saw a string of extreme weather across the entire country. In Alabama, tornadoes ravaged much of the state’s prime farmland, forcing many farmers to rely on emergency farm loans to stay afloat financially. Along the Mississippi River, flooding claimed tens of thousands of acres of cropland in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and other states. This rash of disasters has convinced many farmers and politicians of the necessity of preserving the farm loans and federal safety nets in the upcoming Farm Bill. Despite formidable gridlock in Washington, farmers have been promised bipartisan support in defense of federal farm programs like crop insurance, emergency farm loans, and price protection.