A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s farmers still struggle

A year after Hurricane Maria caused thousands of deaths in Puerto Rico, the island’s farmers are still struggling to come back, according to FERN’s latest report, in partnership with On the Table, a farm-bill-focused podcast produced by NET, Nebraska public media.

“It was like a horror film,” Luis Pinto, a plantain farmer, said through a translator. “You felt like the hurricane was crying.”

The story explains that a mix of relatively quick federal relief helped farmers, but that insurance payments arranged by Puerto Rico’s agriculture department were slow to arrive. In many cases, the relief came too late. An estimated 150 of the roughly 250 dairy farms on the island are in bankruptcy.

Pinto has been busy planting trees, trying to replace the 28,000 he lost to the hurricane. He’s depending on a mix of USDA payments, loans and his own savings. In another instance, a small produce farm that sells directly to supermarkets and other customers has been able to make it through, despite not tapping any aid from federal or local authorities.

You can hear the full report at NET or at FERN.