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September 23, 2021

Cody Craddock: Be prepared for storms of September

When most of us think of “tropical weather” we imagine a warm, sunny beach with crystal clear turquois water. What we often do not think of is a rampaging force of nature that can level homes, bring catastrophic flooding, and reshape the coastlines of where they make landfall.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are very powerful low pressure weather systems that originate in the North Atlantic basin or Northeast Pacific basin. Even as far inland as Rowan County sits, we are still affected by hurricanes on occasion. September is the most active part of hurricane season with Sept. 10 being the statistical peak of the season. Already the Rowan County area has experienced rainfall from the rainfall brought by tropical depression Fred and with the statistical peak in the hurricane season approaching it is possible we see effects from another storm.

So, what do farmers do when inclement weather hits their farms?

There really is no cut and dry answer that describes what all farmers do in the event of bad weather. Factors like crop physiology, financial ability, weather notice, and many more factors are in play. Additionally, farms and the crops they grow are largely at the mercy of the weather.

As far as preparing for the storm, if there is sufficient notice, farmers will often inventory animals and supplies, move pesticides to flood proof storage to prevent spills, move equipment to safe areas, and keep contacts of important contacts like their FSA office, Extension office, and emergency services.

Far before the storm, even before the planting season, farmers may opt to purchase crop insurance. The Federal Crop Insurance Cooperation (FCIC) authorizes private corporations to sell crop insurance, much like the Farm Credit System. Depending on the commodity grown a farm may be eligible for different types of coverage. There are a couple different types of plans which are yield based plans and revenue-based plans. Yield based plans cover losses due to poor yields due to weather, insects, disease, and planting conditions. Expected yield is usually calculated by using the farm’s actual production history or data from the National Agriculture Statistic Service. Revenue-based plans ensure a certain level of income from crops will occur with protection from commodity prices and yields. Crop insurance provides farmers with the income protection they need to make sure their bills are paid.

While farmers prepare for the worst but hope for the best sometimes a storm still puts them in the crosshairs of destruction. With sufficient notice a farmer can make some preparations for an approaching storm. First on the list of a livestock owner is to move animals to a safer place and updating identification. Halters with identification are often left on horses and cattle tags are made legible if they’re not already. In a dire emergency animal safe paint may be used.

General farm preparations also include securing pesticides, securing equipment, collecting important contacts, and preparing generators if needed. Many greenhouse producers will remove the plastic off their greenhouse if the predicted winds are higher than what their frames can withstand.

Producers growing melons, tomatoes, and other water sensitive crops will often pick their fruit since the heavy rains can cause their fruits to split or become unmarketable. Once preparations are made farmers prepare themselves for the storm. If they lose power, they will need to have the backup generator ready to keep animals contained and any produce chilled.

After the storm has passed it is time to assess and document any damages. When major storms strike there may be federal disaster relief aid available for farmers. Insurance claims will be made for buildings and equipment which had coverage. Crop losses are recorded and reported to insurance companies if necessary. Like insurance on homes, crop insurance requires a trained employee to estimate the losses and begin the claims process as outlined in the policy.

The Farm Service Agency in every county also helps farmers with programs available to them to help rebuild and recover from a storm. Farmers are resilient people who rally around one another to rebuild stronger than before. The next time severe weather strikes our area keep our local farmers in your thoughts as they weather the storm.

Cody Craddock is an extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension.

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