May 18 Update: Good news! The South Carolina Senate voted today to overturn Governor Haley’s veto by a 39-3 margin. Our original post remains below.
The South Carolina General Assembly has ratified a bill to establish the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund*, to assist farmers who suffered at least a 40 percent loss due to the historic floods that struck the state in October 2015. The bipartisan legislation was handily passed by a margin of 118-5. Legislators clearly know and recognize the value of farmers in a state where agriculture is the top industry.
When Governor Nikki Haley declared, “I will not support any bailout of any industry over any other industry that suffered from this thousand year flood,” subsequently vetoing the bill, it became clear that she does not understand either the value of the work of South Carolina’s farmers, nor does she comprehend the unique nature of agriculture.
No other industry, made up of thousands of independent small business owners, lost nearly $400 million due to the flooding. And no other industry faces the kinds of obstacles that farmers face—from the weather to the limitations around crop insurance, which covers only a portion of the loss a farmer suffers following a natural disaster.
The historic floods that struck South Carolina will have a lasting impact for years to come, not only within the state, but across the country. Thousands of farmers lost their crops, equipment and infrastructure. Many even lost the very soil in which they raise their crops. The farmers most in danger of being pushed off the land as a result of the flooding are small family farmers and new and young farmers. With the average age of farmers being 58, it is crucial that the next generation of farmers have support and resources to keep their barn doors open.
The South Carolina Farm Aid Fund is not a bailout; it is a meaningful investment in the future of the state. In ratifying this bill, the General Assembly is thinking of the needs of its entire constituency: the farmers who will benefit directly from much-needed disaster aid in the wake of this flood, and all of the citizens of South Carolina who rely on farmers for good, fresh food. We are happy to see the House of Representatives has moved swiftly to overturn the veto (112-2), and hope that the Senate will do the same.
* Please note that Farm Aid, the nonprofit organization, has no relation to the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund.