The Senate delayed debate on a $13.5-billion disaster assistance bill, which includes flood relief for the western Farm Belt, until next week, with a procedural vote on Monday to determine if the bill will advance.
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. (No paywall)
Puerto Rico's version of the food stamp program temporarily will cover more households and provide larger benefits to participants as it recovers from hurricane damage, said the USDA. The maximum benefit for a family of four will rise to $649 as a result of a $1.27 billion line item in the government funding bill passed by Congress earlier this month.
Farmers in most of the United States will receive questionnaires this month as part of the twice-a-decade Census of Agriculture, but the USDA has decided to delay the survey of producers in Puerto Rico until December 2018.
Farms in Puerto Rico are used in the research and development of up to 85 percent of the corn, soybean, and other hybrid seeds grown in the United States. “So the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains,” reports Harvest Public Media.
The only tropical rainforest in the United States is El Yunque National Forest, on the northeastern corner of Puerto Rico and one of the tourist attractions of the island. "Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system...The whole forest is completely defoliated," Grizell Gonzalez of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry told the New York Times.
Officials from USDA and Puerto Rico agreed on a household distribution program that will provide about 500,000 boxes, each holding from 9-16 pounds of U.S.-grown food, "directly to families affected by Hurricane Maria." The distribution, announced over the weekend, was approved through Oct. 27.
He was jumping on logs, crouching under fallen trees, traversing paths of thick, waist-deep mud, on a three-hour journey on foot to the town. He was carrying only $2 in his pocket to buy toilet paper. A week after Hurricane María struck Puerto Rico, Edgardo Matías is surviving in Guaonico, one of nine isolated neighborhoods in the municipality of Utuado.
Puerto Rico's agriculture secretary, Carlos Flores Ortega, estimates Hurricane Maria wiped out 80 percent of the value of the island's crops in a matter of hours, worth $780 million, says the New York Times. The newspaper quoted a farmer on the southeast coast as saying, "There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won't be for a year or longer."