ATLANTA — Georgia's governor and other state leaders are blasting Congress over its failure to approve a package of disaster relief measures.
The $14 billion aid package is desperately needed by farmers and others who suffered losses when Hurricane Michael swept across the state in October, Gov. Brian Kemp said recently.
Kemp said the lack of action by Congress shows "we have reached a low point as a nation."
Some Georgia farmers might have to declare bankruptcy, sit out the upcoming planting season, sell off land or leave agriculture altogether, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Members of Congress have been feuding over funding for Puerto Rico as they consider the federal aid package, the newspaper reported. The political fight is seen as a reason that a bipartisan deal on the funding has not been approved.
"This gridlock exposes the rotten core of some in Congress," Kemp said. "They would rather crush an entire industry — destroying the livelihood of countless Americans — than do something that the opposition party wants. This dire situation highlights the brokenness in Washington."
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican whose district spans parts of South Georgia, said on the U.S. House floor Tuesday that his calls to White House staff have gone unheeded and "but for one tweet on April 1, it seems the president has moved on."
Agriculture is Georgia's largest industry, bringing in $73.3 billion a year and employing 1 in 7 workers, according to UGA's Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. As a result, disruptions to farm incomes ripple across the state's economy, making an impact on local restaurants, hardware stores and shopping centers, the Journal-Constitution reported.
In southwest Georgia, farmer Ken Hickey had already mortgaged three pieces of land to keep operations afloat on his family's 3,400-acre cotton and peanut farm, he said in a recent interview. Then, Hurricane Michael wiped out about 90 percent of his cotton crop. That forced him to make one last move, one he calls a Hail Mary.
"This is it," said Hickey, who recently put up a fourth, 250-acre piece of land as collateral so he could obtain financing for his 2019 crops.
"I will not and I'm not going to mortgage every piece of property that my daddy and my grandparents have worked so hard to obtain . to keep going," he said.