Farmers one step away from flood relief plan
COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - South Carolina farmers are one step away from receiving 40-million dollars in aid to help recover from last October's disastrous flooding.
Tuesday, House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to override Governor Nikki Haley's move to veto the bill.
The measure would help farmers who suffered heavy losses in October's flooding. Because of the disaster, many of them lost most of their crops before harvest, and without the flood relief dollars, they are now strapped for cash to plant in 2016.
South Carolina farmers crowded the State house before the vote.
"She has stated some time ago that, as Governor, she would always have the farmers' back." said Harry Ott, President of the South Carolina Farm Bureau. "So, we assumed that during this thousand year flood event that we could count on our Governor."
Eight days ago, Haley warned farmers that she would veto the bill, saying "It would be wrong to bail out the farmers when we can't bail out small businesses." The veto came one week later, on Monday.
Farmers were devastated. Some of them said Tuesday they feel the Governor has betrayed them.
"I respectfully disagree with how you feel- I think you're wrong," said Jeremy Cannon as if he were speaking to the Governor. "Agriculture is the number one industry in our state, and you were right when you said 'we cannot afford for it to fail'."
Cannon's farm received about sixty inches of rain between October 4th and December 31st last year. He says they had over 800-thousand dollars in the field when the flood came, and insurance only covered roughly half of the loss.
Fortunately for Cannon and other farmers in the same boots, House lawmakers heard their message loud and clear and voted 112 to 2 to override Governor Haley's veto.
"The Governor has a deal-closing fund that's been as high as 20-million dollars a year to go out and hand out incentives to attract industry to this state.. this is an industry that's already in our state," said Representative Brian White. "Let's make an investment in what we already have- South Carolinians and South Carolina companies- not out and trying to recruit other industry- which is great to do that- but when your own need help, you help them first."
Representatives Jonathan Hill and Ralph Norman were the only two representatives who voted to sustain the Governor's veto.
"I voted to sustain the Governor's veto because I don't feel like we have been given tax payer money for the purpose of giving to charity," said Hill. "As I like to say, there's nothing honorable about giving charity with other peoples' money. We were given money for specific purposes that are authorized by our State Constitution, and I didn't see this being one of them."
The farm relief bill is now headed to the Senate, and they are expected to take the issue up Wednesday. Senate lawmakers say they expect to do exactly what the House did and pass the measure overwhelmingly.
"Farmers have been put to the test before, and it's a tough group of people," said Mike Kiesler, whose farm received 38 inches of rain after the flood. "They don't easily give up. They'll keep fighting and make the best of what they're dealt with."