Governor Calvo Finds $200,000 To Assist Guam Farmers

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Farmers have called for aid after bad weather destroyed crops

By Michelle Conerly

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 26, 2013) – Gov. Eddie Calvo has identified $200,000 in cash assistance for local farmers on Guam nearly two months after harsh weather devastated their crops.

The small grant is intended to help farmers initially while they wait on other sources of funding to become available.

During Typhoon Francisco, Calvo signed an emergency declaration worth $250,000 to pay overtime wages for government employees who had to work during that time.

Calvo and Tita Taitague, Department of Agriculture director, found that Guam Homeland Security/Civil Defense hadn't spent all of that money, so the remaining funds will go to help farmers.

"After weeks of searching for the statutory authority and the accounts to grant out this money, we finally identified a source," Calvo said.

Calvo urges commercial farmers registered with the Department of Agriculture to make a claim by Wednesday. He also said the Department could be distributing funds as early as the end of the week to eligible farmers.

John Borja, chief of the Agricultural Development Services Division for the Department of Agriculture, said farmers only need to make one claim and will be fully compensated once other funding sources become available.

Legislation

More substantial sources of funding created by the island's leaders include Sen. Ben Pangelinan's, D-Barrigada, Bill 223-32, which appropriates $400,000 of the bond service fees from the issuance of the Guam Waterworks Authority bonds from the Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) to the Department of Agriculture to fund the Compensation to Farmers for Crop Damages Program.

The Legislature is scheduled to discuss this bill during today's session.

GEDA loan

Another option for farmers is a loan program created by GEDA about three weeks ago. The six-month farmer bridge loan caps the compensation for each farmer at $20,000, with a $500,000 cap on the entire loan program.

There is no interest on the loan, but if, after six months, a farmer wants to extend the loan, a 4-percent interest rate kicks in, and the loan can be extended for a maximum of 24 months.

The intent behind the loan was to have the Legislature appropriate money to pay it back, but as of now, it is unclear how the program will be funded.

Petition

Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio also signed an emergency declaration, allowing the Department of Agriculture to petition the Legislature for $500,000 to help fund its crop compensation program.

Borja said the window to make claims for this program began on Nov. 19 and will last until Dec. 9. During this three-week period, inspections on the farms will be conducted, Borja said.

After the inspections are finished, which could take weeks, the Department of Agriculture has 30 days to complete a report before farmers can get any compensation.

Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, also announced that he's working on draft legislation to establish a program to subsidize administrative fees and premiums to help fund crop insurance for certified farmers from fiscal year 2015 revenues.

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