Some of South Carolina’s farmers will be affected by Hurricane Florence, according to state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers.
Although 90 percent of the state’s corn crop has already been harvested, Weathers said other crops are
not yet ready.
“Over in the Pee Dee area, which is a big producer of our soybeans and cotton and peanuts, naturally they got the most rainfall,” Weathers said late last week. “So we’re especially concerned for them in that part of the state.”
The Pee Dee region also produces most of the state’s tobacco. The crop accounts for $48 million in cash receipts and is among the state’s top ten commodities, according to the South Carolina Farm Bureau.
“The timing was particularly bad for our cotton farmers, who are telling us their crops took a hit from the high winds,” said Weathers. “Because soybeans are a month or two from harvest, they may incur less damage. We’ll know more when official assessments take place this week.”
Some farmers started digging their peanuts prior to the storm, Weathers said. However, because the plants grow close to the ground, the problem will be getting the harvesting equipment into the fields.
“Peanuts are just about ready to be harvested,” he said. “And if the equipment cannot cross the fields, then we’ve got trouble.”
Weathers said the wind could affect what is left of the corn crop.
“If it’s blown over with the storm, it will be very difficult to harvest that because it’s unlikely that corn would stand itself back up,” he said.
According to the Farm Bureau, farmers planted 310,000 acres of corn across South Carolina this year. The crop is valued at more than $187 million annually.
Farmers suffered significantly after the historic flood in 2015.
“The same way that Hurricane Joaquim’s timing was absolutely the worst imaginable, this one won’t be as bad,” he said. “But certainly looks like the winds and the other components of this hurricane are much more severe.”
Weathers said many of the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs available to farmers after the 2015 flood are no longer available and those who did receive assistance got them in the form of loans, which he noted farmers “do not want again.”
Instead, Weathers said South Carolina farmers rely more on crop insurance. But he noted that insurance only covers about 37 percent of the loss.
Weathers plans to take a helicopter tour of the hardest-hit counties of Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, and Williamsburg on Tuesday along with the state’s congressional delegation.