Florence takes toll on South Carolina crops
Florence has taken a toll on South Carolina's farmers.
Extension agents in the state have reported significant damage to cotton, soybeans and hay in the upper Pee Dee region, according to Tom Dobbins, director of Clemson Cooperative Extension Service.
Because of continued flooding, agents have only made visual assessments and have not been able to enter fields for data collection.
Hugh Weathers, the South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, will join farmers and members of the state’s congressional delegation on a helicopter tour Tuesday to assess crop damage.
"It's going to get worse before it gets better," said Harry Ott, president and CEO of the South Carolina Farm Bureau.
The Pee Dee River continues to rise as more water comes in from North Carolina, and Ott anticipates significant losses in the cotton crop in the South Carolina counties bordering North Carolina. The losses are not as significant in areas like Calhoun County.
Cullen Bryant is a fourth-generation farmer with 1,600 acres of land in Dillon County.
He estimates a loss of up to 80 percent of his cotton crop, which encompassed about 750 acres.
Since some of the roads in Dillon are impassable, Bryant has had to go as far as 15 miles out of the way to reach parts of his farmland and asses the damage. He did not have many options for protecting his crops before the storm.
“There is nothing really you can do when the crop is in the field besides asking the good Lord to look over it and take care of it,” he said.
Depending on the exact location, spots in Dillon have seen between 8 and 20 inches of rain from Florence, according to the National Weather Service.
“We knew we would get rain, just not the rainfall that we did," Bryant said. "In some ways we feel like we dodged a bullet since it didn’t come in right on top of us. That was a blessing in and of itself.”
Bryant did not plant peanuts this year, but for those who did, there may be some damage to that crop.
"The longer they stay in the water, the worse it will be," Ott said.
While tobacco was just harvested, it could also be damaged. Even if it is in a barn, it has the potential to go bad if the electricity is out and it cannot be dried out properly, Ott said.
Overall, Ott said the damage to agriculture in South Carolina does not seem to be as drastic as when flooding hit the state in 2015.
But, farmers will still feel the impacts.
"The truth of the matter is, the commodity prices we are looking at are already low," Ott said. "Farmers will take this on the chin. They already have low prices, and now low yield."
Ott said it will take a day or two of drying out before farmers can fully assess the damage.
"Rivers are still going up," he said.
Originally written by Mollie R. Simon and published by Anderson Independent Mail