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US: Spell says grants sought for sweet potato farmers

Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Lester Spell said he is “very familiar with the situation in Vardaman” and hopes to have disaster relief available within the next three-to-four months.

Spell was the guest speaker at Saturday’s Sweet Potato Festival Banquet where he was also presented the annual “Tater Boy” award.

Spell said all 82 counties will qualify for disaster relief and all contacts in Washington, D.C. have been made to try and get something done.
Spell said last year the state received $19 million in grant funds for the catfish industry. The Department of Agriculture was designated to disperse the funds which allowed it to get to the farmers much quicker.

“That’s the kind of help we need,” Spell said. He said he met last week with Hunter Moorhead, policy advisor on agriculture with Sen. Thad Cochran’s office. They are working to try and get legislation with that kind of grant assistance passed, as opposed to the low-interest loans that typically are made available in disaster situations.

“Congress doesn’t spend a lot of time there during the holidays so it may be three to four months before we see something,” Spell said. “I can’t promise anything, but that’s what we’re working for. It would be great help for all the sweet potato farmers.”

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