Farmers can’t get funds

Published 12:03 am Monday, March 16, 2009

VIDALIA — The stimulus money has been allocated for local farmers, but it may be a while before anyone sees any of it.

The stimulus package recently passed into law included language that would allow farmers affected by hurricanes Gustav and Ike to retroactively qualify for the supplemental revenue assistance program — SURE — for the 2008 growing season.

Approximately $752 million was allocated to the SURE program, a disaster relief program that was created in the 2008 Farm Bill. Of that, $200 million was specifically allocated to Louisiana.

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The SURE program required that farmers maintain a certain amount of crop insurance, but the language in the stimulus bill allowed those who did not have that insurance coverage to qualify after paying a small administrative fee.

However, it’s possible the disaster relief funds won’t be available until the fall.

“The formula that is used to determine the SURE payments has factors that will not be determined until the end of August,” Concordia Parish Farm Service Agency Executive Director Kevin Case said.

That is because the marketing season for many of the 2008 seeded crops won’t end until August.

Likewise, it is because 100 percent of the countercyclical payments someone receives will be deducted from the SURE payment, and the countercyclical payments are not determined until then, Case said.

Countercyclical payments are made to producers when returns from sales and subsidies on certain crops are lower than a limit specified by national farm policy.

If the disbursement of the funds was handed over to the Risk Management Agency, that agency could work with the farmers’ insurance companies and the money could possibly get to farmers more quickly, Case said.

But if the FSA is tapped to disburse the funds, then it is a matter of waiting.

“They need some help now, and I just don’t have anything for the people right now,” Case said. “It’s kind of hurry up and wait.”