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Specialty crop growers need changes to hurricane relief program

Hurricane relief program developed last year will not work for vegetable or pecan growers.

A delegation representing Georgia's specialty crop industry visited congressional offices last week to inform elected representative about the damages due to Hurricane Michael and request disaster funding for those growers suffering major losses.

According to Charles Hall, Executive Director of Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, "Our goal for this trip was to make the offices aware of the financial crisis of our specialty crop growers. We are very concerned that without significant federal assistance, banks will deny farm loans for operations this spring and many growers will have to shut down."

"The hurricane relief program developed last year (WHIP 2017) will not work for vegetable or pecan growers," Hall said. "We stressed the changes needed for this program to provide any relief to our growers."

During the congressional office and agency visits, Georgia growers detailed the massive devastation the produce industry suffered from the hurricane. They outlined the need for federal help for specialty crop growers, since many produce and pecan farms did not have any insurance on their crops. GFVGA and the Georgia Pecan Growers Association provided background information outlining the program adjustments needed by our growers.

The delegation included Brent Brinkley, President, Georgia Pecan Growers Association; Lanair Worsham, Chair, Georgia Commodity Commission for Pecans; Jerome Crosby, Georgia blueberry industry rep; Gerald Long, President, Georgia Farm Bureau; Tripp Cofield, National Affairs Coordinator, Georgia Farm Bureau; Bill Brim, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association; Charles Hall, Executive Director, GFVGA; Bo Warren, GA Department of Agriculture; Bob Redding and Joe Thomas with the Redding Firm.

Georgia and Florida congressional offices visited included, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, and Congressmen Buddy Carter (GA-1), Sanford Bishop (GA-2), Austin Scott (GA-8), Rick Allen (GA-12), Drew Ferguson (GA-3), Al Lawson (FL-5), and Neal Dunn (FL-2). The group met with USDA Representatives for FSA and RMA, in addition to U.S. House Ag Committee and House Committee on Appropriations staff members.

All the congressional offices expressed concern for the crop losses and support to assist growers hurt by Hurricane Michael, according to GFVGA.

Source: Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association

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