More than $15.2 million in payments through the state’s $240 million Agricultural Disaster Relief Program of 2018 were mailed to farmers Wednesday.
A second batch will go out today, and checks will continue to be processed weekly as they are verified and approved.
Nearly 7,000 applications for assistance were submitted to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as part of the program of which approximatley 2,000 have been processed.
Wayne County Extension Service Director Kevin Johnson said he does not yet know how many Wayne County farmers applied for the program.
The N.C. General Assembly unanimously approved funding in response to more than $1.2 billion in estimated agricultural losses from Hurricane Florence and Tropical Storm Michael. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the legislation into law.
Countywide, Florence caused an estimated $22 million in losses just in field crops.
Estimated losses for the county as the result of Florence are:
• Tobacco, $16.2 million
• Sweet potatoes, $2.9 million
• Soybeans, $2 million
• Cotton, $969,000
• Peanuts, $256,000
• Corn, $375,000
The applications are being processed randomly and are not being done on a county-by-county basis, said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who announced the first round of checks this week.
Complete applications that are not missing any information or documentation are being processed first. Applications missing information require follow-up calls in order to be verified and approved.
“This is the most important thing I have worked on since becoming ag commissioner,” Troxler said. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and it was absolutely pummeled in 2018. Many farmers are hurting and may not be able to secure funding to start the 2019 growing season.
“While this money does not come close to making whole the crop losses, I hope it will help farmers get financing for the coming year and help jumpstart the economies of rural North Carolina.”
A total of 70 of the state’s 100 counties received a presidential or secretarial disaster declaration, qualifying farmers for the program.
The federal government shutdown created some delays in getting applications processed, but work is continuing to verify and approve the remaining applications.
Applicants had to submit the Farm Service Agency form 578 with their applications, which includes acreage being grown.
Other information considered in determining payments include the five-year average price for commodities, the county average yield and the county estimated losses, which were determined by an ad hoc committee made up of county FSA officials, cooperative extension agents, forest service staff and soil and water conservation district staff.