Etheridge urges federal relief for NC farmers

Washington, D.C. -— U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington) today urged members of the House Agriculture Committee to support his efforts to provide direct disaster assistance payments for farmers whose crops are devastated from the drought in North Carolina and the Southeast.

“I have seen the evidence of this crisis personally, and I thank Governor Easley for his leadership and for accepting my invitation to testify today on behalf of farm families and rural communities,” said Etheridge.

“The drought conditions facing farmers in North Carolina and the Southeast are truly a disaster, and one that Congress should urgently address. It is my hope that Congress will work together across both sides of the aisle to pass an agricultural disaster assistance package that that President will sign into law I urge my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to support this critical effort.”

Etheridge’s comments came during a hearing of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. Chairman Collin Peterson held the hearing at Etheridge’s request to examine the severity of the drought in the Southeast. N.C. Governor Mike Easley testified at Etheridge’s invitation.

“In North Carolina we have asked citizens to stop watering their lawns, to take shorter showers and to avoid washing cars but these conservation efforts will do little to resolve the devastation the drought has brought to our agriculture industry,” Easley said. “Some of our crops yields are at the lowest levels we have seen in 50 years and many farmers predict that they will have not enough hay to last through the winter.”

Etheridge sent a letter to the President on September 25 signed by a bipartisan group of 54 members of Congress asking him to request direct disaster assistance payments for farmers. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 85 counties in North Carolina disaster areas, making farmers eligible for loans. The funding Etheridge is requesting would be grants.