Farmers can apply for the aid through a new website set up by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, farmrecovery.com, for three weeks beginning on March 18. Black estimated the money will begin flowing this spring.
The money comes from the $19 billion emergency spending package Congress passed in June after nearly a year of partisan brinksmanship over aid for Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, began releasing $3 billion in relief this fall to farmers reeling from natural disasters across the country. Cotton and peanut farmers have been eligible for that funding, but multiple farmers told the AJC this week that the money has been slow to trickle down to southwest Georgia.
At a Wednesday press conference surrounded by state lawmakers and agriculture officials, Gov. Brian Kemp directed his comments toward still-hurting farmers.
“We know this was a generational event, and it will take a long time to recover,” Kemp said. “But we continue to fight for you.”
In the months after the funding cleared Congress, Georgia officials — advised by a task force of rural businessmen, commodity groups and the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension — began working with the USDA to set the guidelines for the block grants, which had long been championed by Black and Gov. Brian Kemp.
UGA previously estimated that Michael caused upwards of $2.5 billion in agricultural damages to the state.
“The health of the rural community is riding on us doing a very good job,” Black said.
Dozens of federal agencies are divvying up the rest of Congress' disaster relief money, which will go toward repairing roads, housing and other damaged infrastructure across the country.
Bainbridge agribusinessman Tommy Dollar, who operates a farm with his son and served on Black’s task force, said farmers in his corner of the state have faced countless setbacks in the 16 months months since Michael hit.
“To have lost it all in one month in 2018 and have to wait 500-something days before they get the money has been very hard mentally and physically on a lot of people,” he said. “But it feels good today.”