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Hurricane Floyd Dealt the Final Blow to Some Farmers

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NASHVILLE — The flood waters in eastern North Carolina may be the final blow for many farmers. They have suffered through drought and epic low prices on almost all commodities just to watch Hurricane Floyd claim the rest.

The full extent of the damage is still a mystery hidden under water that is still rising in some areas.

"Those farmers who were marginally making it, this may be the year that will break them," said Mike Wilder, Nash County extension agent.

Wilder is waiting as are most farmers throughout eastern North Carolina. They are waiting for the flood waters to recede and waiting to see how much can be salvaged from an already difficult year on the farm.

"We've had substantial loss of equipment. I've heard of tobacco farmers who have had their bulk barns completely submerged along with their cotton and tobacco harvesting equipment," said Wilder.

Some of the most valuable tobacco was yet to be harvested and is still underwater in many areas. One cotton field south of Nashville looks more like a sand- and rock-filled river bed.

"Peanuts and sweet potatoes will be hit the hardest," explained Wilder.

Hired hands worked feverishly to save one field of sweet potatoes. They may already have been damaged by sitting in soggy soil. The workers are racing to beat more rain.

"It may be a lot of work being done for no reason. But just in case these potatoes can be salvaged, they want to get in the field and then get them out as quickly as possible," said Wilder.

Livestock farmers suffer a more heart-wrenching task. They are trying to get food and clean water to starving animals.

Emergency workers are also helping them gather and dispose of the carcasses of animals that did not survive the flood.

So far, officials estimate nearly four million turkeys and chickens have died, and thousands more face starvation. Half a million hogs perished.