State News

Farmers worry about crop damage from Hurricane Irene

Posted August 29, 2011

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— North Carolina farmers felt the financial weight of Hurricane Irene's winds and heavy rains as inspections after the weekend storm revealed damage to field crops, poultry and other agricultural businesses.

State leaders touring eastern North Carolina Sunday said they saw tobacco stalks knocked over in fields, damage to corn and cotton, and dead poultry.

"When you get damage of this magnitude from this type of storm, it's catastrophic for the farming community," said Doug Webb, who manages Wainwright Farms in Wilson County. Tree fell on house during Irene. Irene damage east of Triangle

"People's lives are turned upside down. The farmlands are destroyed," Gov. Bev Perdue said.

After taking an aerial tour of eastern North Carolina, she thinks that farm damage "is going to be another huge cost to the state."

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger also toured farms in damaged areas. Berger said he saw dead turkeys outside a damaged poultry house near Kinston, as well as damaged fields.

"We have seen from the air some fairly significant crop damage," he said.

The state Agriculture Department also received reports of damage to greenhouses, grain storage facilities and an aquaculture operation in Pamlico County. Wilson County farmer tallies crop damage Wilson County farmer tallies crop damage

Initial reports show cotton bolls weren't stripped from their plants, while tobacco farmers might have been saved by rushing their leaf to their curing barns before the storm, agriculture department spokesman Brian Long said. The leaf curing process, though, could have been spoiled if farmers lost power in their barns and didn't have generators.

Webb said tobacco took the hardest hit at his Stantonsburg farm. That crop makes up 60 percent of his business.

Long said it might take several days of data-gathering before the total crop damage is known. 

Given the size of Hurricane Irene, other farmers likely suffered losses similar to his, Webb said.

"You can talk to any farmer from here back to the coast that's tending tobacco or corn or cotton. He's going to have about the same amount of damage," he said.

Farmers could receive low-interest loans from the federal government if an agricultural disaster is declared in North Carolina. Thirty-four eastern and coastal counties are also eligible for basic federal disaster relief.

Webb said he's still calculating how the crop damage will impact his bottom line. He thinks he'll likely have to file an insurance claim.

"We'll just take it one day at a time, and we'll just see," he said.

53 Comments

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  • mrbigt032j Aug 30, 2011

    you people don't want the gov to help the farmers that feed you but you don't complain about our gov giving food stamps a free check every mont to people that won't work just stay home and have more kids so that check will get bigger.

  • Hater like Darth Vader Aug 30, 2011

    Regardless of how bad you feel for farmers, the facts are:

    They have insurance, insurance isn't as big of a payday.

    Most farmers are in massive debt, but their assets far outweigh the debts in most cases.

    Crying the blues is a part of their culture, it's a volatile profession. However, in my experience, Tobacco farmers have it much better if they are smart and work hard than pretty much everyone except folks who grade sweet potatoes.

    But don't plead the case for a guy who inherits a small fortune and gets to work on his own terms because his family was smart enough to accumulate land over generations. They have a good life, and typically are able to focus more on raising a good family while still maintaining reasonable wealth than many people in the triangle are.

  • vraptor Aug 29, 2011

    I think there is something called crop insurance for farmers. Can we make it mandatory like bamicare?

  • white0333 Aug 29, 2011

    blah blah i wish the goverment would bail me out.ask a farmer about the tobacco buy out.got paid our tax money and can still keep growing it. must be nice.

  • whistler411 Aug 29, 2011

    Yes, we know where our food comes from, especially since we don't grow it ourselves. The difference is the government gives subsidies to farmers. Most people who lose a job or livelihood get unemployment for a while, not a check year after year. How about how the government bought the tobacco allotments and paid farmers NOT to grow it. Yeah, it's a hard knock life.

  • superman Aug 29, 2011

    sorry hilldoll but the best leaves on a tobacco plant are not the top leaves. Worse leaves are the bottom, they covered with sand and dirt. The top leaves or the tips, are small and have a lot of stem. The best leaves are the ones on the middle of the stalk. They usually use the middle leaf to wrap cigars as they usually cure a nice golden brown.

  • workingforthosethatwont Aug 29, 2011

    I hope the farmers finally get some help! Without them we would be eating organic tofu. Farmers are the backbone of this country and I hope they get all the need, instead of giving it to the so called "underprivileged" those who refuse to work.
    In the meantime, I just saw our "gov" as she toured the areas damaged in the gas hog surbuban. She had the back window partially down and was waving at hard working men cleaning up a downed tree. How nice of her.
    Get outa my pockets bev!

  • superman Aug 29, 2011

    I grew up on a farm and lived there almost 25 years. Hot weather and no rain doesnt do much to make vegetables grow. Most vegatables are dead and gone by August. Most of the food you buy at the grocery store is certainly not locally grown. Check the labels on the fresh food and the labels on canned food. A hurricane in one little part of a small world is just not going to make any significant difference in the price of food except to the farmers. You think the price of paper is going up because of all the trees that were blown over? Sorry that farmers will suffer but when we have extreme weather of any kind all of us suffer from property damage.

  • cge061367 Aug 29, 2011

    I am a farmers wife and I am really disturbed by the comments that have been made. My husband would be the first person to help you in a time of need but it seems to me that when the farmer is in need that the majority of people just want to make negative comments about things they have no clue about. Have you ever thought that we put alot of Blood, Sweat and Tears into our crop each year. Have you ever thought about where your food comes from? Have you ever thought that a farm is just like any other business you buy the tools to make your business run as proficently as possible. Maybe tonight when you sit down at your table you shold think about your comments and I hope you don't choke on your food.

  • common_sense_plz Aug 29, 2011

    In addition to tobacco and cotton, they fail to mention those farms that produce food for our tables. There are lots of growers down east where their farms provide tomatos, corn, beans of all types, etc. for our tables that many of you may buy at the state farmers market. In the eastern part of our state they are able to stagger crops so corn, tomatoes, etc. are coming off at different times of the season. We can be asured that produce prices will be going up due to this hurricane.

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