MILLS RIVER — U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows told farmers whose crops have been wiped out by heavy rain and flooding that he has explored what kind of relief is available even as politics stalls the farm bill renewal.
"We've already reached out to a number of different agencies," Meadows said during a tour of the flood damage in the low-lying French Broad River valley on Friday. "As we look at that, crop insurance is part of what kicks in for some of these farmers, but for some of them it doesn't. We want to look at what federal relief might be out there, but more importantly it underscores the importance for a farm bill to make sure that those safety nets are out there."
Since the beginning of June, Hendersonville has had more than 21.18 inches of rain, compared to the average of 9.93 inches for all of June and July. Persistent heavy rainfall flooded farms and ruined acres of sweet corn, tomatoes, feed corn, sod and other commodities.
"It's a sad, sad situation," said Mark Williams of Agribusiness Henderson County, the non-profit agency that promotes the farm economy. "These are people that are out there working hard every single day to provide food crops for the rest of us. It's certainly sad to know what it can do to us economically, but this is not just about economics — this is about families. This is truly about families and their livelihoods."
Meadows visited farms Friday to see the damage firsthand. He said he is working hard to help farmers with their economic losses, but for now low-interest loans and crop insurance are the major options.
Produce grower Randy Edmundson lost 45 acres of sweet corn to flooding. He said he can plant beans now and harvest them in 35 days, but that income won't be enough to make up for his losses.
Although some of the crops have not been completely destroyed, Meadows said food safety is preventing farmers from selling them anyway. Possible contaminants in the floodwater could make the crops unsafe to eat.
"Somebody with fewer ethics would be out here harvesting this stuff and sending it on, and yet this guy is doing the right thing," Meadows said. "We need to applaud that to make sure we have safe food for people to purchase."
Produce was not the only commodity lost. Super-Sod in Horse Shoe lost 58 percent of its sod and will have a six-month delay on its sod orders. Tap Root Dairy will have to downsize its herd by 150 to 175 milking cows and lay off three or four workers because of the feed corn loss.
"This will probably be the worst year we've ever had in four generations," Billy Johnston of Tap Root Dairy said.
"The economic part — it's devastating," Williams said. "But these folks right here, what they're suffering — that's when it really hits you in the heart."