Establishing the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund

H.4717 establishes the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund in response to the October flooding. The fund is administered by the Department of Agriculture, with the advice of a Farm Aid Advisory Board comprised by agency and industry heads, some of whom are appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Director of the Department of Revenue.

To qualify for assistance from this fund, the farm must have lost 40% of agricultural commodities due to the October 2015 flooding and be located in a county for which the US Secretary of Agriculture issued a Secretarial Disaster Declaration, and must have a farm number issued by the Farm Service Agency.

Each grant can equal up to 20% of the farmer’s verifiable loss, but no one (including the farmer’s relatives) may receive grants aggregating more than $100,000. Additionally, received grants when combined with losses covered by insurance may not exceed 100% of the total loss. The DoA may require any documentation or proof deemed necessary, including social security numbers, etc., but must at least require the submission of records in order to verify loss.

Grants must be awarded to cover losses that demonstrate an intent to continue the agricultural operation, but may not be used to buy new equipment. The DoA is instructed to develop guidelines and procedures to ensure funds are spent in a manner outlined in the application, and may require any proof of appropriate spending deemed necessary.

The bill appropriates $40,000,000 from the 2014-2015 Contingency Reserve Fund to the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund. The board may accept private funds, grants, and property, and all fund earnings remain in the fund. The Advisory Board is to be dissolved no later than June 30, 2017, and any remaining funds would go to the general fund. Administration costs are to be paid from the DoA’s existing funds.

Crop insurance is already available to farmers from the federal government, and those programs have a history of waste and fraud. Further the federal government also provides crop disaster relief outside of its crop insurance programs. Despite what some fear mongering individuals may claim there is no special need for the government to subsidize the agricultural industry. Farmers should be responsible for their own profits and losses, and subject to the risks inherent in their industry just like every other business.

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