Late Tuesday, North Carolina's Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler called an emergency meeting of the North Carolina Board of Agriculture to discuss disaster relief for farmers after Hurricane Irene. In attendance were several state representatives and state senators, as well as representatives of US congressional members.
One of the primary themes was that whatever disaster relief is out there is too little, and too slow to arrive. Wilson County Producer, Pender Sharp, Chairman of the State FSA Committee:
"When we talk about FSA and what it can do and its ability to do, it gets its direction from Congress. Now, sometimes we might give the appearance that we move a little bit slow but we have programs in place that aren't mentioned. Now, no reflection on FSA but the programs I've mentioned really are small, token programs that help remove debris and those sorts of things."
After the fact, Sharp described what would really, really help producers:
"What will help, what can help and what the people in this room can help make come to be, there are really two tools in the bag that can offer serious help to farmers in North Carolina: One is a Crop Assistance Program or it's refered to as "CAP". Now, the Secretary of Agriculture can implement this and this law was an Act in 1935 and it set aside in more recent years about 500-million dollars that he had at his discretion."
And the second form of relief that Sharp discussed:
"What would offer more help than anything is if we could have a disaster program that Congress has enacted many times in years past, in times like this. Those programs were designed to be smooth and swift and FSA could administer them pretty easily. The only way that's ever going to happen is for people in this room, the people that are affected by this storm, to exert political influence to make that happen in Congress."
Another situation mentioned several times during the meeting was the declaration to waive load limits for farm vehicles that are working night and day to harvest prior to a storm or, salvage crops after the storm. Sharp and others recounted instances of vehicles being stopped for a half hour or more by state troopers for load violations, wasting precious time and manpower.
Mr. Sharp addresses the NC Board of Agriculture