- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to speed up crop insurance payments to farmers who lost their harvests because of last month’s historic flooding.

Haley asked Secretary Thomas Vilsack in a letter Monday to activate emergency loss adjustment procedures, noting the Oct. 2-5 storm that dumped 2 feet of rain on some areas of the state mere days or weeks before expected crop harvests.

“The process to file and receive payment for claims is slow and cumbersome,” Haley wrote. Many farmers “are even required to harvest valueless crops at a significant expense.”

Vilsack previously approved a disaster declaration for the state, giving farmers access to emergency, low-interest loans.

But farmers aren’t interested in getting deeper in debt. Many of them already had operating loans and now must fix damaged equipment, so they have no cash flow for additional loan payments, said Aaron Wood, an assistant state agriculture commissioner.

How much insurance will help offset farmers’ losses is not yet known, but payments aren’t expected to even cover their costs.

The state Department of Agriculture estimates direct losses to farmers at more than $375 million. Total losses to the agriculture industry will likely top $587 million, Wood said.

“No South Carolina farmer that entered this fall with proper crop insurance and a viable business should lose that business solely because of this flood,” Haley wrote.

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