RALEIGH – North Carolina is a big deal when it comes to agriculture, and agriculture is a big deal when it comes to North Carolina. The Old North State holds top spots for several crops and livestock categories, and has production in the top ten of many others. This all adds up to make agriculture one of the largest economic contributors to the state, representing a value greater than $85 billion a year.
So, when Florence ravaged the south east of the state crops and livestock took a big hit that is still being sized up.
“This hurricane couldn’t have come at a worse time,” North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten said,
North Carolina likely won’t have preliminary crop damage estimates until the end of the next week, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. Floodwaters and blocked country roads still were making it difficult for agency agronomists to check out farms. Five of North Carolina’s top six farming counties are within the hardest-hit areas in the eastern part of the state.
“I think it’s easily going to be in the billions of dollars,” Troxler said in an interview Thursday, calling the damage “catastrophic” and “unbelievable.”
Obviously such dramatic crop and livestock losses pale in comparison to the loss of life and homes due to Florence, but the effect on people’s livelihoods is long lasting. Many of these farmers were just getting over the losses brought by Hurricane Matthew when Florence took aim.
Naturally, government wants to “help.”
“North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he told President Donald Trump during his visit to the state Wednesday that making farmers whole will take more than just a “farm bill.”
“We’re going to have to take a special approach to our farm communities, because they have taken a gut punch,” said Cooper, who planned to view agricultural damage Friday.
North Carolina remains the nation’s largest tobacco producer, with more than 330 million pounds (150 million kilograms) in 2016. Graham Boyd, chief executive of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, estimates losses could total as much as 125 million pounds (57 million kilograms) valued at $250 million to $350 million.[…]”
That ‘special approach’ likely means high dollar relief legislation from the state and federal legislatures. Such packages will be welcomed by farmers and universally supported by lawmakers. Popular opinion will probably support more and more disaster relief as well.
Despite all the support, it will still be an example of socializing financial losses using taxpayer money. Conservatives are, on principle, opposed to robbing Peter to pay Paul. But when the spending is viewed as compassionate, a great deal of principle is forgotten. It is much easier for even fiscal conservatives to sanction the robbing of Peter to pay Paul the poor farmer who lost his crop due to the storm.
North Carolina farmers could definitely use help, along with all of the other families whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Florence, but Big Government should be the last place turn to make themselves whole.
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