NC Ag Losses From Florence Will Be Big

Sep 19, 2018

North Carolina farmers will suffer some heavy losses from the effects of Hurricane Florence. Preliminary reports from the state agriculture department show heavy hits to peanut, soybean, cotton and sweet potato crops.

"This was an unprecedented storm with flooding that exceeded that from any storms in recent memory," said Heather Overton, a spokeswoman with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Overton added that the state's top six agriculture producing counties - Sampson, Duplin, Union, Wayne, Robeson, and Bladen - were slammed by the storm and subsequent flooding.

Farmers were able to salvage some crops by harvesting them ahead of the storm, namely tobacco and corn. But Overton said other key crops that could not have been harvested before Florence hit land likely are a total loss in storm-damaged areas. These crops include cotton, soybeans, peanuts and sweet potatoes.

Overton said a flyover by Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler showed losses to blueberry growers in Bladen County.

Storm Took More Than Just Produce

A farm flooded due to Hurricane Florence.
Credit Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance

Livestock growers in North Carolina also feel the pain inflicted by Florence.

Preliminary numbers show 3.4 million poultry and 5,500 head of swine wiped out by the storm.

Economically, that's a big hit for the state. Agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina, and, according to Overton, 68 percent of the state's agricultural cash receipts come from livestock.

And the number of livestock killed in the storm is likely to go up. Assessments by state officials are ongoing but hampered by inaccessible routes into flooded areas.

Another question for state agriculture and environmental officials is how to dispose of all the dead animals.

That could be done by composting, rendering, on-site burial or dumping the carcasses in landfills; one environmental spokeswoman said that last option is the least preferable.