ALEXANDRIA, LA.- Many farmers in CenLa have just barely managed to recover from last year's severe drought. and now...they're facing the possibility of funds drying up. Farmers say money-making crops like rice- one of Louisiana's biggest- could disappear completely. News Channel 5's Rachael Penton reports.
For farmer Gordon Smith, last year's growing season was what he describes as a train wreck.
"Overall it was a terrible year last year, even the sugar cane was hurt real bad," says Smith.
Although the beginning of the year came with plenty of rain over the past few months CenLa has been experiencing a dry spell once again- another close call for farmers. But due to recent rains production across the entire state is now up...higher than last year.
"With the recent rains it's recovered and its doing very well now. it looks like a super good crop in this area," adds Smith.
But there's now another threat lurking for farmers. the Farm Bill, which provides vital funding for farmers like Smith, could be taken away, which means farmers face the threat of losing $100 million dollars.
"The farmers have so much that they're risking that we have to have something like an insurance to where if we don't have the yields, if we do have a catastrophic weather event that we have some funds that would at least cover their cost of production," says AgCenter specialist Ronnie Levy.
The Farm Bill is headed for a vote, and if it passes in it's current state many farmers right here in CenLa will no longer receive those funds that cover their crops just in case of a catastrophe. That's why the Louisiana Department of Agriculture is trying to convince Washington to find a way to keep this funding in place, and continue to keep Louisiana crops like cotton and rice, grown here in CenLa.
"That's what's really important to our department is to make sure that some of our key commodity crops are taken care of and not compromised," says Carrie Castille, Associate Commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture.
For now all farmers can do is pray for more rain...and play the political waiting game.
"They're still hashing it out back and forth until they get a final bill drafted and passed it's all speculation until that point," says Smith.
If passed it will mean a $100 million dollar reduction in money for the farming industry; however, the bill does allocate more money for the food stamp program. As of right now the bill is stalled until members of the House agree to bring the legislation to the floor for consideration.
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