Florence Lands Another Gut Punch
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Hurricane Florence has left another memorable mark on our region with damage sustained from significant rain and wind over a three-day escapade. Many residents and businesses, including our agricultural industry, are now in the midst of making some tough decisions on how to best move forward getting things back to normal. The agricultural industry took another punch to the gut thanks to Hurricane Florence. According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), “initial estimates for crop damage and livestock losses to North Carolina’s agricultural industry are expected to be over $1.1 billion, based on assessments following Hurricane Florence. That number easily tops the $400 million seen following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.” Combined, that is a $1.5 billion hit over the last two years from natural disasters. I won’t even mention the continuing issues related to low commodity prices, international trade, nuisance lawsuits, or declining financial stability agricultural producers have been dealing with over recent years. Bryant Spivey, my colleague in Johnston County, recently wrote a wonderful article highlighting the elevated stress our producers are facing, which I encourage you to read.
Recovery efforts are ongoing, and crop losses will continue to be measured as harvest resumes. I wanted to share some helpful tips that will impact farmers dealing with storm damage. I would first like to stress the importance of reporting any crop loss to your insurance provider as soon as possible. It is also important to report any other agricultural related loss to your local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Farm Service Agency office. Loss of livestock, honeybees, farm-raised fish, forage, timber, orchards, nursery trees, and non-insurable crops may be eligible for disaster programs administered through the USDA.
As harvest resumes, please note that crops submerged in flood waters originating off the farm are considered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be adulterated and unfit for consumption. Farmers should discuss this with insurance adjusters as a priority item and document flooding and crop damage to the fullest extent possible before harvesting or destroying any crops. Do not mix flooded, submerged, or otherwise moisture-damaged grain with the good grain, as there is a risk of spoiling the entire lot and/or having the entire lot rejected at the market. While these products cannot be used for human food, FDA has established a process by which a request can be submitted to divert these products to animal feed, provided they pass a testing protocol. Testing fees have currently been waived by the NCDA&CS. If you need assistance with making a formal request, please contact Mac Malloy at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center by calling 910-671-3276. For more disaster-related information, please see the NC Disaster Information Center.
Once again, the number one industry in North Carolina has been shaken. But one thing this industry has made known over the years is that the optimistic, hard-working individuals who possess pure grit and sheer determination will overcome this with time. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. And for all those who are just beneficiaries of that hard work, as Bryant Spivey says in his article, “When you sit down to your next meal, think about the stress and toil that was necessary to produce that food. Ask yourself, ‘Would I do a job like that?’ If the answer is no, be very thankful that someone else does so that you can do something else.”
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