By Christina Cleveland
Joining the S.C. House of Representatives, the S.C. Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of a bill that would make $40 million in aid available to South Carolina farmers who were affected by the October 2015 historic rainfall.
The Senate voted 39-3 to override the veto.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman said in a statement after the vote: "I'm proud of the leadership shown by the Senate today in offering our farmers a lifeline that they desperately need. I was absolutely determined that the farmers devastated by this flood would be protected following this irresponsible veto."
The bill's text says the Farm Aid Fund will make grants to farmers who have experienced a loss of agricultural commodities of at least 40 percent.
Aiken County Legislative Delegation members Sens. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield; Tom Young, R-Aiken; and Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington; told the Aiken Standard on Tuesday they planned to vote to override Haley's veto.
Setzler, who was chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee, which dealt with the farm bill, said in a statement, after meeting with county farmers following the flood, he knows "firsthand the tremendous impact the flood had on them."
"The agricultural community and the farmers are a vital part of the economy of South Carolina and essential to the people of this state," Setzler added. "Therefore, I support the farm aid bill and will vote to override the governor's veto."
On Tuesday, Aiken Delegation members in the House, with the exception of Reps. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, and Don Wells, R-Aiken, who were not present, also voted to override the veto.
Farmers across the state lost millions of dollars in crops ruined by last year's rains and some in the agricultural community said they are still recovering. A portion of eastern Aiken County near the Orangeburg and Lexington county lines also experienced damage.
The governor has called the farm aid bill a "bailout" and said in a Facebook post Monday that farmers, unlike most small businesses, have federally subsidized insurance that covers up to 85 percent of their losses.
"There were no winners during last year's 1,000 year flood, and we will continue doing our best to help all of our industries and property owners -- fairly -- through the recovery process," Haley wrote.
Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers also has opposed Haley's veto of the legislation, saying in a news release Monday, "even though farmers were among those hit hardest by the October floods, with more than $376 million in losses, the governor is turning her back on the state's largest industry.
"The floods devastated many who lost a year's income and are struggling to put a new crop in the ground."
Weathers noted farmers with at least 40 percent in losses are eligible for the one-time grants that are capped at 20 percent of total loss or $100,000. The grants only cover production costs not new debt or new equipment, he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has paid approximately $375 million to homeowners through flood insurance claims and other assistance, with an additional $157 million in aid included in the federal budget passed in December, according to Weathers' statement. Farmers, however, were excluded from this financial assistance, he said.
(c)2016 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.)