Underprivileged P.R. farmers get $1M in federal aid
Hundreds of farmers on the island will receive close to $1 million in assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi announced Thursday. The reimbursement is the largest amount granted by the federal agency in fiscal 2010.
The program was designed to provide assistance to farmers in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands and works by reimbursing producers a portion of the costs of transporting their crop or for transporting materials used in agricultural production to up a maximum of $8,000.
All agricultural crops, including horticulture, aquaculture and floriculture production of food, fiber, livestock, insects or derivatives thereof, are eligible under the RTCP program. The product must have been transported by a farmer for 30 miles or more.
Last May, in a letter to the leadership of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Pierluisi, together with members of Congress from Alaska and Hawaii and delegates from the territories, expressed the importance of continuing this program in fiscal year 2012.
“The need for these funds is even greater because of the current high costs of gasoline and transportation. For decades, farmers outside the 48 contiguous states have operated under a competitive disadvantage,” the letter said. “The RTCP helps to overcome this disadvantage. When our farmers are able to compete, the welfare of the American market improves and our jurisdiction becomes more self-sufficient.”
Puerto Rico farmers and livestock growers may apply for payments corresponding to fiscal year 2011 between July 25 and September 9 at the USDA’s local offices.