Butterfield talks drought with Wayne County farmers
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 30, 2007 1:51 PM
Farmers suffering from this year's drought can expect help from Washington, perhaps attached to the Farm Bill being debated now, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield told Wayne County farmers Monday.
Butterfield spoke to farmers gathered at the Thoroughfare Volunteer Fire Department and at Wilber's Barbecue. They described how the long stretch of dry weather devastated their fields this year.
The growing season was particularly bad, they said, because the drought came on top of a late spring freeze.
"Most years in a drought situation you might lose one of the three (crops)," said Harold Overman, who grows wheat, corn and soybeans. "This year I've lost all three."
Butterfield told farmers he would work to help them.
"I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up in an urban setting, but I know the importance of agriculture and the relationship agriculture has to the economy of eastern North Carolina, the state's economy, America's economy and the world's economy," he said. "I know the drought is hurting not only your bottom lines, but also your families. I can connect the dots and I have seen the big picture."
Butterfield said that he is not sure when or how that aid might be delivered -- just that it will come.
"We are aware of the seriousness of this problem and we are going to do something about it. Help is on the way," he said.
He explained that it's possible that an emergency relief package will be attached to the 2007 Farm Bill -- a good bill in itself, he added.
Currently, the bill is being debated in the Senate.
"We have a commitment from the Democratic leadership to put a package together that will bring relief to our farmers," Butterfield said. "We don't know when it's going to happen, we just know it's going to be soon. We don't know how many states will be covered, but North Carolina will be one of them. We don't know the amount of the help, but it will be significant. We don't know what crops will be covered, but we hope they all will.
"And we need to make you get grants and not loans. Most of you already have enough loans on the books and adding another one is simply not good for business and is not good for the economy."
The thing for farmers and others to remember, though, explained Howard Scott, director of Wayne County's Cooperative Extension Office, is that regardless of what kind of relief the federal government is able to provide, it won't be enough to offset this year's losses.
"This relief will not solve the problem," he said. "It's a Band-Aid, but it's a Band-Aid that's needed. This will help pay some bills, but it will not help farmers make money on their crops this year."
Overman said farmers need help now in order to get ready for next year.
"We've got bills to pay and we've got to make plans for next year," he said.
Several farmers said the felt that Butterfield had honestly listened to their concerns and would be able to help.
"I hope he will," Charlie McClenny said.
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