Local News

Halifax County Tobacco, Cotton Crops Hit Hard

Posted September 23, 2003 2:14 a.m. EDT

— Damage estimates from Hurricane Isabel are starting to come in from North Carolina farmers. With just seven counties reporting, there is already more than $75 million in damages to crops and farms.

Thank to Isabel's high winds and rain, Halifax County has taken its second hit from Mother Nature in a year. Tobacco plants are shredded and tossed to the ground; cotton plants are blown over all in her path.

"It's a sickening feeling. It's just -- there's no other way to put it. It will just almost make you sick on your stomach to see this much loss," Halifax County farmer Jerry Hamill said.

Hamill's crops are in the same shape as hundreds of other eastern North Carolina farmers -- their crops are devastated. Hamill lost the most valuable part of his tobacco crop.

"The wind just came in and, you know, the tobacco could not stand 65 mph winds, probably gusts to 70 or 75 mph that came through here," he said.

Hamill's cotton field does not look much better. Last week, the bolls were opening and he said it was shaping up to be a great crop.

"All of Halifax County is like this. Most of eastern North Carolina, east of us, is probably worse than this," he said.

It is almost impossible to tell all of the damage. Hamill said he is likely to destroy two or three rows of plants with equipment while trying to save 20 rows.

"We're going lose some cotton one way or the other," he said.

All this comes a year after a drought and a flood damaged Hamill's crops.

It will take weeks to get a final figure on the total amount of damage to North Carolina's crops. Some plants could recover, while others may sustain more damage if the weather does not cooperate.

N.C. Department of Agriculture Hurricane Information