Secretary Perdue makes first stop in Fort Valley visiting damaged farms
FORT VALLEY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The United States Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue was in Middle Georgia Friday afternoon. Fort Valley’s Mason Pecans was his first stop of touring farms damaged by Irma and Harvey. He plans on visiting Florida and Texas as well. Georgia is the leading state for pecan producing.
“You can read about it. You can hear on the radio, see it on video, but really getting down here, among these down trees and really see the degree of devastation,” said Secretary Perdue. “Tree nuts are not an annual crop they are a generational crop.”
The Masons will have to purchase new trees since the ones knocked over by Irma, cannot be salvaged. Secretary Perdue says since nurseries are backed up, it will be 2019 before they can even get trees placed. The pecan trees were just 2 to 3 weeks away from harvest. Now, it will be 10 to 12 years before they see them in the same conditions they were before Irma hit.
“I didn’t start out in pecans, but I wound up in it,” said owner, Thomas Mason. “I got my boys and my daughter, we got our grandchildren. This is a family event and we’ll just have to press on and go forward. That’s all we can do.”
Mason says they will have to re-plant 4,000 trees.
State Representatives, Austin Scott and Sanford Bishop also toured the grove. They say they will do their part in helping out.
“Our goal is to go back and write the Farm Bill,” said Rep. Scott. “We will work with associations, growers, to try to find a way to provide an affordable insurance program that will help minimize the loss anytime we have a storm like this.”
“(The goal is) when we set policy, of agriculture, that we have this in mind,” said Rep. Bishop. “That we can learn from this experience.”
“We’ve got USDA people out here in the audience and they’ll be answering phones and let the growers know, what programs are available and how we can help them get back on their feet,” said Secretary Perdue.
Secretary Perdue says the state may have lost 20- 30% of pecan crops after Irma. He will continue visiting farms in Georgia, Texas and Florida throughout the next two weeks.