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051016 Farm Veto Edwin Smoak ch

Farmer Edwin Smoak stands in one of his corn fields on Charleston Highway outside Orangeburg on May 9. Smoak said Gov. Nikki Haley should approve the farm aid bill to support agriculture. The governor vetoed the bill on May 16, 2016.

COLUMBIA — The House has overridden Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of a bill to send $40 million in aid to South Carolina farmers who lost their crops in last year's massive floods.

The 112-2 vote on Tuesday was a sharp rebuke to the Republican governor and well over the two-thirds margin needed. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Haley said Monday she vetoed the bill because it gives farmers help not available to other small businesses. Haley says farmers have crop insurance and federal aid to cover their losses.

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White says that's not true and Haley's veto makes no sense. The Anderson Republican says interest payments on bonds given to industries like Volvo will be more than enough to cover the losses from farmers.

Weathers urges override

Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers late Monday issued a statement in opposition to Haley’s veto of flood relief legislation for South Carolina farmers and urged the General Assembly to override the veto when they return to Columbia tomorrow.

“Even though farmers were among those hit hardest by the October floods, with more than $376 million in losses, the governor is turning her back on our state’s largest industry,” Weathers said. “The floods devastated many who lost a year’s income and are struggling to put a new crop in the ground. “

The General Assembly passed the farm aid bill with overwhelming majorities, despite the governor’s veto threat.

The legislation provides $40 million to help farmers who sustained major losses not covered by crop insurance and other disaster relief funding. Farmers with at least 40 percent in losses are eligible for one-time grants capped at 20 percent of total loss or $100,000. The grants only cover production costs such as seed and fertilizer, not debt or new equipment.

“Governor Haley has opposed all types of federal and state relief for South Carolina’s farmers, calling it a ‘bailout and ‘unfair,’” Weathers said. “This is no bailout – it is a lifeline that is desperately needed. The only thing unfair would be to deny farmers relief that other businesses and individuals have received.”

FEMA has paid approximately $375 million for homeowners through flood insurance claims and other assistance, with an additional $157 million in aid included in the federal budget passed in December. However, farmers were excluded from this financial assistance.

“On behalf of South Carolina’s farmers, I urge the General Assembly to do what is right and fair for our state’s farmers and override the governor’s veto.”

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Lee Harter has been editor of The Times and Democrat since 1981

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