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Summary 

H. 4717 - Farm Aid Bill

 

This bill, which became law when the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto creates the South Carolina Farm Aid Fund, a separate and distinct fund from the general fund of the State, and all other funds. Earnings on this fund must be credited to it and any balance in the fund at the end of a fiscal year carries forward in the fund into the succeeding fiscal year. Revenues credited to the fund in a fiscal year must be used to operate a grant program that provides financial assistance to farmers. This grant fund must be administered by the SC Department of Agriculture (SCDOA) using existing resources and funds. The SC Department of Revenue (SCDOR) is directed by the bill to assist SCDOA in the administration of this grant program by providing auditing services, accounting services, and review and oversight of all financial aspects of the grant program.

 

It also creates a Farm Aid Advisory Board to make recommendations to SCDOA regarding its duties when administering the grant program. This Board will consist of the Commissioner of Agriculture, or his designee, serving ex officio, as chairman of the Board; the Director of SCDOR, or his designee; the Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture of Clemson Public Service Activities, or his designee; and the Vice President for Land Grant Services of South Carolina State Public Service Activities, or his designee. In addition, the Board will include one (1) member representing South Carolina Farm Bureau and one (1) member representing a Farm Credit Association, both appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture; and one (1)  member representing the crop insurance industry and one (1) member who is an agricultural commodities producer, each appointed by the Director of SCDOR.

 

This Board shall hold its initial meeting within twenty days of the effective date of this law, in order to recommend an application process by which a person with a loss resulting from the flooding in October 2015, may apply for a grant. SCDOA must provide the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee a written copy of the grant program’s application process within ten days of its adoption. SCDOA must ensure every person interested in applying for a grant has access to adequate resources to submit an application in a timely manner, and upon request, it must assist an applicant with the preparation of his or her application. The program must have received its first grant application within forty-five (45) days after the grant program’s application process has been adopted. SCDOA is authorized to accept private funds, grants, and property to be used to make financial awards form this grant program. Within forty-five (45) days of the completion of the awarding of grants, but no later than June 30, 2017, the Farm Aid Advisory Board is dissolved. Any funds remaining in the fund upon dissolution shall lapse to the general fund.

 

In order to be eligible for a grant from this fund, an applicant must: 1) have experienced a verifiable loss of agricultural commodities of at least forty (40%) percent as a result of the catastrophic flooding of October 2015, for which the Governor declared a state of emergency in the State; and the United States Secretary of Agriculture issued a Secretarial Disaster Declaration for the county in which the farm is located; 2) have a farm number issued by the Farm Service Agency; and 3) sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, certifying that each fact of the loss presented by the applicant is accurate.

 

Each grant awarded by SCDOA may not exceed twenty (20%) percent of the applicant's verifiable loss of agricultural commodities. However, a grant awardee, including any grant made to a related person, may not receive grants aggregating more than one hundred thousand ($100,000) dollars. Also, a grantee, including any grant made to a related person, may not receive grants that when combined with losses covered by insurance, exceed one hundred (100%) percent of the actual loss. If a grant is made to a related person, the amount to be included in the limits set above must be the amount of the grant multiplied by the awardee's ownership interest in the related person’s loss. However, an awardee who shares an ownership interest with another person or entity may not be refused a grant solely because the other person or entity has otherwise received the maximum grant amount. In such a case, that person's grant amount is limited by their ownership interest. If the total amount of grants allowed exceed the monies in the fund, then each awardee's grant must be reduced proportionately.

 

In order to determine loss, SCDOA must: 1) measure the person's cumulative total loss of all affected agricultural commodities for 2015 against the person's expected production of all agricultural commodities affected by the flood in 2015; 2) shall use the person's applicable actual production history yield, as determined by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, to determine loss for insured agricultural commodities. In determining loss for uninsured agricultural commodities, the department shall use the most recent year's county price and county yield, as applicable, as determined by the National Agriculture Statistics Service, United States Department of Agriculture; and 3) may require any documentation or proof it considers necessary to efficiently administer the grant program, including the ownership structure of each entity and the social security numbers of each owner. Minimally, in order to verify loss, the department shall require the submission of dated, signed, and continuous records. These records may include, but are not limited to, commercial receipts, settlement sheets, warehouse ledger sheets, pick records, load summaries, contemporaneous measurements, truck scale tickets, contemporaneous diaries, appraisals, ledgers of income, income statements of deposit slips, cash register tape, invoices for custom harvesting, u-pick records, and insurance documents.

 

All grant awards must be used for agricultural production expenses and losses due to the flood which demonstrate an intent to continue the agricultural operation; however, awards may not be used to purchase new equipment. The department shall develop guidelines and procedures to ensure that funds are expended in the manner outlined in grant applications, and may require any documentation it determines necessary to verify the appropriate use of grant awards including receipts.

 

If SCDOA determines that a person who received a grant provided inaccurate information, then the person shall refund the entire amount of the grant. If the department determines that a person who received a grant used the funds for ineligible expenses, then the person must refund the amount of the ineligible expenses. If the person does not refund the appropriate amount, SCDOR shall utilize the provisions of the Setoff Debt Collection Act to collect the money from the person. If SCDOA determines that a person knowingly provided false information to obtain a grant pursuant to this section or knowingly used funds for ineligible expenses, that person shall be subject to prosecution.

 

For purposes of this grant program the following definitions are applicable:
Agricultural commodities  means wheat, cotton, flax, corn, dry beans, oats, barley, rye, tobacco, rice, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets, sugar cane, tomatoes, grain sorghum, sunflowers, raisins, oranges, sweet corn, dry peas, freezing and canning peas, forage, apples, grapes, potatoes, timber and forests, nursery crops, citrus, and other fruits and vegetables, nuts, tame hay, native grass, aquacultural species including, but not limited to, any species of finfish, mollusk, crustacean, or other aquatic invertebrate, amphibian, reptile, or aquatic plant propagated or reared in a controlled or selected environment, excluding stored grain.

 

Person or awardee means any individual, trust, estate, partnership, receiver, association, company, limited liability company, corporation, or other entity or group.

 

Related person means any person, joint venture, or entity that has a direct or indirect ownership interest of a farm or legal entity.