Senators look to aid Georgia produce farmers crippled by cold weather

A worker collects peaches at Pearson Farm in Fort Valley on May 25, 2017. (Maura Friedman/The New York Times)
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A worker collects peaches at Pearson Farm in Fort Valley on May 25, 2017. (Maura Friedman/The New York Times)

Things weren’t so peachy for Georgia produce farmers last summer.

An overly warm winter, paired with a late-coming hard freeze, decimated the region's peach and blueberry crops, costing the state's farmers some $300 million and upwards of 70 percent of their output, the Georgia Department of Agriculture estimated at the time.

Now Georgia’s two U.S. senators are looking to get the feds to cover some of those losses.

A provision added to the Senate farm bill by Republicans Johnny Isakson and David Perdue would make Georgia’s blueberry and peach farmers eligible for a slice of $18 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation.

The legislation cruised through the Senate on a 86-11 vote Thursday.

The language, however, was not included in the House version of the farm bill that lawmakers passed last week. It will be up to members of a House-Senate conference committee to determine whether the provision makes it into the final version of the must-pass agriculture legislation.

Agriculture is Georgia's largest industry, accounting for more than $75 billion in business and roughly 411,000 jobs in the state, according to the University of Georgia's Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, and specialty crops are a growing slice of that. Georgia now leads the country in blueberry production.

“Our farmers feed the world, and it’s essential that we do everything we can to anticipate challenges down the road and make sure our policies reflect the needs of our farmers for the long term,” Isakson said.

This story has been updated. 

Read more: 

ExploreGeorgia peaches: 80 percent of state’s crop lost
ExploreWinter weather threatens Georgia blueberry, peach crops

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