COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A bill providing up to $40 million in aid to South Carolina farmers devastated by last year's historic flooding is now state law. This week, both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override Governor Nikki Haley's veto of the plan.
On the surface, it seems like a cut and dry issue. Why wouldn't the state reach out to help farmers still suffering? But as anyone who has been following the story over the past few weeks knows, it turned out to be far more complicated.
Governor Nikki Haley made it clear she would not back legislation to give the funding to South Carolina farmers. Haley saw it as a matter of fairness, saying farmers already received federal money from crop insurance and loans. The governor says that type of help is not available to small business owners and homeowners who also suffered during the flood.
"My heart breaks for farmers, Haley recently said. "But it also breaks for small businesses, home owners and property owners. The difference is farmers receive subsidies for lost income, which small businesses don't receive."
And true to her word, the Governor did veto the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund.
That stance immediately drew backlash from farmers and many of the state's leaders, including Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers who said subsidies only cover a portion of farmers' crop insurance and that isn't enough to help farmers get back on their feet.
"With many of our farms that our multiple generations, my farm included, we don't want this flood event to be the thing that breaks that generational transfer of South Carolina farms," Weathers said. "So it's very important to get this assistance. And again, it's not a bailout. It's 20 percent of the loss they've incurred. So that's not a bailout, it's just a lifeline for the farmers in the state."
Farmers and their supporters also pointed out that unlike other businesses, some farmers don't qualify for low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In the end, the overrides in both the House and Senate were nearly unanimous. And we agree with their decision.
Agriculture remains the life blood of our state and can't be compared to other industries. Nothing is more important to the people of the state than a steady food supply grown right here in the Palmetto State.
Legislators stepped up and showed they have farmers' backs. And we're glad they did.
That's my take, What's yours?