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Guest view: Emergency state aid

In difficult times, good neighbors help each other out. That has always been the North Carolina way.

This has been a difficult year for our farmers. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is right on target in suggesting emergency state aid. We hope his ideas will get a good hearing from his Republican colleagues in the General Assembly.

But this has also been a difficult year for North Carolinians in many other businesses, employers and employees alike. We hope that the understanding and assistance offered to politically powerful agricultural interests will be matched with help for those without such strong connections.

Hurricane Irene did an estimated $320 million worth of damage to crops, and that came after summer’s drought and spring’s tornadoes. The time it takes federal help to arrive means the state’s farms would suffer for a prolonged time if there is no state help.

Troxler is proposing an emergency $25 million state fund to help farmers leverage $125 million in private loans, and thus bridge the interim until federal assistance arrives. He further suggests that a permanent fund be established, based on programs in Missouri and Louisiana, to provide for state assistance when there is an agricultural disaster. This sounds like an especially good idea, one that might spread the cost of disaster recovery over years of good weather and bad, one that would take some of the uncertainty out of state budgeting for disaster relief.

We say all of this cognizant of, as was Troxler, the state’s tough financial situation and the hardships that many others, not just farmers, are experiencing. The Legislature, in cutting so drastically from social services and other aid programs this spring showed a disregard for the concerns of those citizens.

We remember how the GOP leadership sought to use the extension of unemployment benefits as political leverage to force Gov. Bev Perdue into signing away some of her authority over the budget. And today there are many struggling families no longer able to get aid that was available through the state and federal governments.

So yes, let’s be good neighbors to our troubled farmers. And let’s be the best neighbors we can to all of our disadvantaged North Carolinians.

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