South Carolina agriculture officials expect crop damages from Hurricane Matthew to be less than those resulting from the October 2015 floods that hit impacted the state.
Officials at the state Department of Agriculture say cotton farmers in the affected areas were hit particularly hard and those who planted fall vegetables will likely lose a second harvest because of the hurricane. Fall vegetables are usually planted in the spring and there is not enough time to replant before winter vegetables come to harvest.
South Carolina’s largest crops soy beans and peanuts did not see significant losses from Hurricane Matthew, according to SCDA spokeswoman Stephaine Sox. She said that’s because the rain from Hurricane Matthew all fell in a single, predictable bout, allowing for farmers to get their work finished before the storm hit. That contrasted with last year’s “thousand year” flood, which fell much harder than had been expected and had resulting floods that denied farmers the ability to get to their fields.
Sox cites preparation as the major difference between Hurricane Matthew and the 2015 flooding. Before Hurricane Matthew farmers “worked around the clock, 24-hours around the day, for several days to harvest their crops,” she said. “They worked together to get those crops harvested so the wouldn’t be lost again like they were last year.”
As for mitigating the effect of natural disasters on crop damages Sox says there is not much her department can can do.
“Unfortunately for farmers, it is just a fact of life,” she added. “You know a lot of our livestock farmers are able to evacuate their livestock and that sort of thing. But for row crop farmers, there is not a lot you can do.”
The Department of Agriculture urges farmers who sustained crop damages to file a report with their county Farm Services Agency and let the agency know how much assistance they will need. Reporting damages will help the FSA determine the monetary value of total damages across the state and secure funds to repay those damages.
Sox believes her agency will have enough information early next week to give an estimate to the total damages in the state.