WASHINGTON D.C. (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's congressional delegation is pushing for the highest amount of aid possible for farmers affected by eruptions on the Big Island.
On Friday, U.S. sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, and U.S. reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa, signed off on a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide maximum assistance to Big Island farmers.
The delegation is asking for Big Island farmers affected by ongoing volcanic activity to be eligible for 2018 crop insurance payments, as well as arranged disaster payments, and "creative flexibility" with the Emergency Conservation Program.
"Hawaii is unlike any other state. The majority of our farms are small and diversified with specialty crops, and Hawaii remains an underserved state for crop insurance," the delegation's statement reads. "For farmers who have lost their homes, their crops, their land, and their farming infrastructure valued up to millions of dollars, assistance is absolutely critical if they are to remain in agriculture."
The state Department of Agriculture estimates losses due to farming operations amid the ongoing eruptions at more than $14 million.
Preliminary estimates found that as much as half of Hawaii's cut flower industry has been destroyed due to ongoing volcanic activity. Locally-grown products like coffee and macadamia nuts are also showing what could be significant losses due to acid rain.
The statement continued: "Hawaii farmers have lost so much. If we want to ensure that they remain in agriculture and continue to provide locally grown food for our families, specialty crops that add millions to our economy, and increase Hawaii's food sustainability, we must provide them with every available assistance."