As Hurricane Michael recovery efforts continue, we are gradually learning the full scale of damages portions of our district are facing. The setback for the agriculture industry is severe, to say the least. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, I traveled to the Wiregrass to see firsthand what some of our farmers are experiencing. The devastation is heartbreaking.
Agricultural damage from Hurricane Michael across Alabama, Florida, and Georgia is projected to top $1.3 billion in total losses, with cotton, pecans, and poultry commodities hit the hardest. An expert with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System estimates the loss to our state’s cotton crop alone could eclipse $100 million. That sum does not include the impact the storm had on livestock, peanuts, and timber. When I was on the ground in the Wiregrass, I even saw 1,500 acres of cucumbers that might not make it to harvest. Our farmers are in the midst of a very real crisis.
In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the backbone of our economy, and throughout my time in Congress, I have always made it a priority to fight for our farmers of all commodities. Their work to provide the food and fiber we depend on is vitally important. I will continue to advocate for them, especially at this very uncertain time as we work to put the pieces back together for these hardworking men and women who have suffered tremendous loss to their livelihoods.
In the wake of this disaster, Governor Kay Ivey requested that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue declare our hurricane-damaged counties in Alabama as agriculture disaster areas. She also requested the maximum assistance be made available to our state through existing Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs. I, too, have been actively engaged with Secretary Perdue, and I recently penned a letter to him voicing my support for the Governor’s request. It is imperative that our farmers receive the most fitting and best available assistance from USDA during this time, and I am confident Secretary Perdue understands the severity of the devastation that occurred to agriculture in our state. I will remain in close contact with USDA to address any further needs the Department may require in getting our farmers the help they need in the weeks and months to come.
As we work through this season of rebuilding together, I’ve been encouraged to see and hear about so many acts of kindness and charity in our district and throughout the Southeast. As a local example, when Tate’s Supermarket in Hartford lost power during the bad weather, they were unable to keep their refrigerated food stock cold. So, they emptied their freezers, prepared the food, and gave it away on to-go plates for anyone in Geneva County who needed a meal. This time of recovery will not be easy, but if we continue to help each other in whatever ways we are able, we will get through this.
If you or someone you know needs assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, please contact one of my offices. My staff and I work for you, and we are committed to ensuring that you know the options available to you during this trying time. Most importantly, please continue praying for the families who were impacted by this disaster.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.