Floods have had a “shocking impact” on South Carolina farms and crops still in the fields, Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said Thursday after touring the state by aircraft.
Early, conservative estimates of the crop loss is $300 million, he said. The figure was determined in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Service Agency and the Clemson Extension Service.
Thousands of acres remain under water with farm buildings such as barns and silos reduced to “islands in the water,” he said. Farm roads have been washed out.
“The storm has had a significant statewide effect and it appears that low-lying farmland adjacent to river systems and creeks was most severely impacted,” Weathers said in a statement.
The crops affected include peanuts, cotton, fall vegetables, soybeans and some timber, Weathers said. In addition, poultry farmers have to repair roads to get feed in to their stock, Weathers said.
Only about 20 percent of the peanut crop has been harvested at this point and virtually none of the cotton crop, said Drake Perrow, who has a 2,200-acre peanut and cotton farm in Cameron. He also operates a peanut warehouse and a cotton gin.
“These bottoms where water has been sitting, those peanuts are rotted,” Perrow said. Final financial impacts won’t be fully assessed until farmers are able to get back in the fields and finish harvesting, he said. “In reality, I think this is going to affect the cotton more than it does peanuts.”
Peanuts are generally harvested starting in late September to Thanksgiving, while cotton is harvested from early October to Thanksgiving. Perrow, who consults with about 30 farmers in the region, said the worst-hit areas are around Summerton and Manning. Farms from Holly Hill to Charleston also suffered damage.
“This has been an exceptionally challenging year for farmers in our state,” Weathers said. “We have dealt with a severe drought during the growing season and now excessive rainfall at harvest.”
South Carolina has requested the federal government to declare an agricultural disaster in the state, which would begin the process of getting federal assistance to farmers. Weathers urged farmers to become familiar with their crop insurance polices and to contact their crop insurance agents before making additional investments in their crops.
For assistance and questions, farmers should contact the local U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Service Agency office in their counties, or Kenn Jameson with the state federal agriculture department’s FSA office at 803-806-3820 ext. 107.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398