CALCASIEU PARISH — More than one year after Hurricane Laura caused more than $1.6-billion in damage to the state’s agriculture industry, some farmers say assistance has been inadequate.
“It’s very slow to get any type of aid in your pocket,” said farmer Brandon Vail. “It's not a cheap deal to rebuild and rebuilding is going to take several years.”
Laura caused extensive damage to Vail’s farm in Calcasieu Parish, where the family was also forced out of their home and into an apartment in the back of a barn.
“It’s been an adjustment,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to have what we do. It’s a shop apartment, but it’s something. And we’re happy to have it.”
Vail was one of many farmers who had a chance to voice their concerns about disaster recovery to the president of the American Farm Bureau, Zippy Duvall, who echoed their frustrations.
“When you're hurt, that's when you need the help,” said Duvall. “We've got to figure out a way to make our disaster payments come timely, so the farmers can survive the storm.”
Duvall and others toured agricultural interests across southwest Louisiana Wednesday.
“I am surprised, I thought by now a year later most of these damages would be fixed,” said Jim Harper, president of Louisiana Farm Bureau.“They've applied for the aid, the aid is not being paid just yet.”
So what can be done to speed up the process? KATC reached out to Congressman Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette, who says his office has been engaged with the USDA’s local, state, and federal offices.
I have met extensively with farmers and Farm Bureau about the bureaucratic challenges and difficulties navigating through disaster programs. That process has been further complicated by COVID remote work protocols that have injured Executive branch job performance.
Legislatively, we’ve pushed for full funding and extension of the Wildfire & Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), which provides relief for agricultural producers, and an expansion of forestry disaster programs. Additionally, the disaster recovery bill that was recently signed into law includes significant funding for agriculture programs.
- Congressman Clay HIggins, R-Lafayette
Farmers like Vail hope the assistance will come soon.
“It's not fun, there are days when I kind of wished we had picked a different profession,” said Vail. “But I'll still be here, it's a little harder, a little more stressful, but we're gonna make it.”
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