Storm threatens local crops


Staff Writer

Friday, September 14, 2018

The potential impact of another natural disaster in the Twin Counties could again be damaging for local farmers.

Gov. Roy Cooper recently declared a state of emergency and waived transportation rules to help farmers harvest and transport their crops more quickly with the threat of Hurricane Florence looming.

Edgecombe County Extension Director Art Bradley Jr. said the waiver temporarily exempts agricultural vehicles on the roads from undergoing the weight enforcement rule by the State Highway Patrol, which will allow them to get to and from the market more quickly without being delayed.

“During harvest, time is the essence,” Cooper said. “Action today can avoid losses due to Florence.” 

Bradley said the impending hurricane could be disastrous for local  farmers. He said all crops are critical, but standing corn is really subject to wind damage and water damage once it’s blown down. 

“They’re going to be flat on the ground and nearly impossible to get up and harvest,” Bradley said.

Local farmers have been working hard to get their tobacco out of the field as quickly as possible, but the main issue is having the tobacco barn space available to place the crops in, Bradley added.

“It takes about a week to cure and turn over a barn in order for it to be used again and there is still a lot of tobacco in the field,” Bradley said. “Similar to the corn, if the hurricane comes through with the wind damage, this tobacco won’t stay around if it remains standing.”

Bradley said other issues farmers face include electrical outages, especially if they don’t have a generator on stand by. 

“These tobacco barns — once you start this curing process, you’ve got to keep that going,” he said. “They can manage with these stand-by power generators through that process, but it’s a lot more difficult to manage it. It’s basically like putting a band-aid on things. You won’t come out with the same quality of leaf.”

Making sure the greenhouses come out unscathed will be another potential problem for farmers if the hurricane results in damaging high winds, Bradley said. He urged farmers to move their farm equipment out from under their sheds or shelters, especially those that are advanced in years.

“It’s probably not a good time to keep equipment under a shed during a hurricane because if they’re under an older shelter they could fall, so anything under an aging shelter might need to be better off in the elements,” he said.

Bradley said many farmers in Edgecombe County are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew. He said this year was shaping up to be a decent year for cotton, tobacco and soybeans and a good portion of the corn crop had been harvested.

“This year wasn’t going to dig anybody out of a hole, but it was going to be an average year,” he said. “We really don’t need to dig any bigger holes for what most of these growers are still dealing with after Hurricane Matthew.”