Hertford County crop loss at $14.55 million

Published 11:01 am Friday, September 2, 2011

The numbers are in and they paint a not so pleasant picture for Hertford County farmers.

Crop damage resulting from Hurricane Irene’s stiff winds and heavy rains is estimated at $14.55 million in the county. As expected, damage to tobacco ($7,711,392) and cotton ($5,893,797) topped the list.

“The wind and the rain impacted those two crops the most here in the county,” said W.S. “Bill” Early, Director of Hertford County’s Farm Service Agency. “The wind also hurt tobacco from a standpoint of where the leaves were twisted around the stalks, making it impossible to harvest.”

Of the county’s 2,100 acres of tobacco, only 20 percent was harvested prior to Irene’s arrival. Hertford County’s cotton crop, which is spread throughout the county, is 21,000 acres.

The remaining damage was inflicted upon corn ($292,050) and soybeans ($153,960) as well as a combined $500,000 to other crops (watermelons, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes and cucumbers). Approximately 80 percent of the county’s corn crop was harvested prior to last weekend.

Early said the survey of the county’s row crops did not indicate any damage to peanuts.

“Unless we get another big rain on top of Irene, the peanut crop will be okay,” he said.

As far as what assistance is available to Hertford County farmers to help them offset their crop losses, Early said the first step in that process is having the county receive a federal disaster declaration. To date, the only declaration issued for Hertford County is for the protective measures regarding public safety.

Early said if and when a countywide disaster declaration is issued, farmers can take advantage to recoup a portion of their losses. The process takes into consideration a farmer’s entire operation and requires insurance on all crops.

“For example, if a farmer suffered major losses to one crop, but was able to recoup that loss due to a big year on another crop, then that would offset the loss and no disaster money would be paid for losses to that one crop,” Early explained. “It’s all tied into the total revenue on all crops. If that number is under the expected revenue, a farmer can recoup 60 percent of the difference.”

Joining with Early in assessing crop damage in Hertford County were Wendy Drake with the Cooperative Extension Service and Greg Hughes of the Hertford Soil & Water Conservation District.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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