Flint River Mills, Inc.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Congressman, good to see you.
REPRESENTATIVE BISHOP: Thank you very much. Yes, sir. And I was with the President yesterday in Macon, and we were very, very happy to hear him say that he was going to request a supplemental appropriations bill to deal with this disaster, particularly the agricultural aspects of it that have impacted us so strongly here in Georgia.
Agriculture is number one — the top element in the Georgia economy. And we’ve got to get it back — back going. And, of course, I’m going to work with my colleagues and we’re going to do our dead-level best to make sure that we get that supplemental appropriations so we can get back to where we need to be — producing the highest quality, the safest, and most abundant food and fiber anywhere in the world.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Congressman, good to see you. You told me that the response on the ground — you’re getting good reports.
REPRESENTATIVE BISHOP: Yes, I am. There are a lot of places that are in need of help. But the resources are on the ground, it’s just a matter of sending them where they are needed. The communications has been down. It’s now getting back up with the power. And with that, I think people are beginning to get what they need. But we’ve got a ways to go.
But I’ve not heard anybody complain that the agencies have not been working together. I think the operations have worked very, very well the way it’s supposed to work — seamlessly. And hopefully, we’ll get it done and people will be able to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks for your leadership. Commissioner, thank you for your efforts. And, Governor, as always, thanks for leaning into this disaster with your leadership.
And the coordination, I think, between the state, the local, and the federal has been seamless. We have FEMA personnel on the ground now already working here in Bainbridge and across the region with assessment. USDA personnel are coordinating to make sure that agricultural support is there.
I want to assure you that we’re going to work closely with Congressman Bishop. We’re going to work closely with both of your senators who are with us here today — Senator Isakson, Senator Perdue. And we’ll work toward that supplemental.
I’m here to reinforce our commitment to the region. The President was in the Macon area of Georgia. He was in the Panhandle yesterday. The American people are grieved at the loss of life. We witnessed the devastation of homes and businesses in communities across the region. But I — we’re here to make sure that rural Georgia and people working in agriculture across the region also know that we’re equally committed to seeing agriculture come all the way back.
And to hear about 90 percent losses in a number of crop areas — I think we’re going to travel out to see a pecan farm in just a little bit to give some indication of the generational impact of this storm.
But I want to assure your governor and the whole team here that we’re going to work very closely with your delegation in Congress. We’re going to work very closely with the USDA. And we’re going to bring Georgia all the way back, in the city and on the farm.
REPRESENTATIVE BISHOP: Vice President, let me just also express gratitude to the nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, who have come forward — the Red Cross, the church groups, the Southern Baptists, the Georgia Missionary Baptist convention, and all of the other religious groups, the AME Church, that have come together for their communities to supplement the aid while all the governmental entities get it up and running. We owe a great debt of gratitude to them. They’re continuing to do that, and I wouldn’t want to leave them out because they’ve been a part of this collaboration and a part of this team that has come together to really make things work. And we are so grateful for that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a great comment. Sanford and a number of the people in the community I was speaking with were talking about just that — that people can actually go to a website through FEMA for national volunteer organizations: NVOAD.org. And they can find out the organizations like Red Cross, like Samaritan’s Purse, that are already in the communities, that are helping families that have been displaced by the storm.
And so we share your gratitude to all of those organizations and the people who are really putting hands and feet on their faith to come alongside families and communities impacted by Hurricane Michael.
GOVERNOR DEAL: Well, first of all, thanks to you and your wife for being here with us today.
I want to just commend all of the state agencies that are working. They have been very cooperative, working together. And they have done tremendous work. Entities such as the Georgia Water Association, they have been totally instrumental in restoring services for some of the sewer systems, and they have provided the generators. Our GEMA has provide generators as well. And I got the news on the way here, just a minute ago, that all of our hospitals that had lost power now are back on the grid. So that’s a very good thing.
Thank you, though, for being here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Outstanding. It’s an honor to be here. Questions, anyone, while we’re here?
Q Mr. Vice President, could you share your reaction to the scene of destruction behind you here? What does it say to you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it — seeing is believing. When you hear about a Category — nearly-Category 5 storm coming ashore, when you hear the assessments that we’ve been hearing, it’s a whole different thing to literally see it — to travel across the landscape, to see the buildings, to see the areas that have been impacted.
But to think we’re standing here at FRM Feed, which has been on this site for 91 years, and has never been closed, except for a few days in nearly a century, is just very moving.
I spoke to a number of the employees and families that are gathered here about where they were in Bainbridge when the storm came through. But to see this structure destroyed is to remind you of the sheer force of those 110-, 120-mile-an-hour winds. And I expect when we see the impacts of crops on the ground firsthand, we’ll draw the same away.
And being here, our hope is that every American would have a better appreciation for the impact on families in the city and on the farm. But our fondest hope is that the families here and those affected directly by Hurricane Michael know that from President Trump on down, our administration, our partners in the Congress and both parties and our partners at the state and local level, we’re going to work until we bring Bainbridge, southwest Georgia, and the whole region all the way back.
Q You mentioned a $2 billion figure in losses to the agricultural industry. We heard a billion, has it increased? What’s — what is the total right now?
COMMISSIONER BLACK: Yeah, it’s going to be north of a billion. We’re already there with vegetable and pecan.
Q Can you break down those figures for us?
COMMISSIONER BLACK: Yeah. $480 million on vegetables. The latest numbers this morning going north to $600 million with pecan. And that captures what the loss of the crop is today, but also the — as we keep saying, the generational loss of that long-term crop. And that is a — I think it’s going to challenge even our leadership in pecan. We’re the nation’s leading pecan state, and it may very well challenge that.
So people are coming to grips with that right now and it’s — cotton is going to be considerably in that ballpark as well. And we’re waiting to see on peanut.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Secretary Perdue organized a briefing at the USDA. And just looking at the geographic area affected by Hurricane Michael, we knew that there were roughly $2 billion in crops that might be affected.
And what the commissioner shared with us today is it’s — as the assessments go forward, there are already over $1 billion and literally on track to reach that number. In some cases, 90 percent of crops destroyed. But the impact on pecan crops, where the trees are decimated as well has — it’s a longer way coming back.
And so we’re going to work very closely with state and local officials and with the Congress to fully assess what that impact is on communities and on families, and make sure they can come all the way back.
SECRETARY PERDUE: That’s Georgia. You know, you’ve got the Panhandle of Florida, which had a good bit of agriculture as well down there. So that didn’t — and those don’t include the Florida numbers.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE BISHOP: We’re also the number one state in privately-owned timber. And a lot of our timber stands were severely damaged and on the ground. So that is also generational and that’s going to be a great loss for us.
COMMISSIONER BLACK: And it’s not there in that figure.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s (inaudible).
Anybody else? We’re good?
Let me just say that we’re just — we’re grateful for the governor’s leadership, grateful for the partnership in Congress, the kind of — the kind of hands-on leadership that we’ve seen demonstrated in Georgia and across Florida and across all the areas impacted.
But frankly, we’re most inspired by the people of this community and the people of this region. We’ve already seen, today, firsthand the resilience, the character, and the strength. And it gets us every confidence that, as we do all that the American people would have us do — the people of Georgia and Florida would have us do — we know this community’s best days are ahead.
So, thank you all for your example and God bless you. (Applause.)