As the outer bands of hurricane Dorian approach North Carolina, farmers there are in a rush to harvest their crops. As they’ve learned the past three years, crops standing in the field can’t survive the massive rain and devastating wind that will accompany the category 3 hurricane. Linda Loveland, communications director for the North Carolina Farm Bureau, describes the situation as a “frenzy.”
“We're getting some of the light bands coming through and a little bit of rain,” she told Clinton Griffiths on “AgriTalk” Thursday. “Right now, we’re on a big sweet potato and tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina in Princeton, and they have several hundred acres of sweet potatoes. It's raining, not heavy yet, but they're out there still digging. They're in the tobacco fields, trying to get as many of those leaves harvested as possible. They'll work until it gets too bad.”
September marks the peak of hurricane season, Loveland said. But this year is unique because many corn farmers planted later to avoid the drought that’s common in June and July. Those farmers are harvesting earlier than desired.
“They don't want it all blown flat in the field,” she said. “They're hoping they're going to come out a little bit better than last year after Hurricane Florence.”
This is the second year in a row North Carolina has been hammered by catastrophic hurricanes. Loveland said she visited a farm this morning that lost 40% of their sweet potato crop and a few hundred acres of tobacco to hurricane Florence last year.
“We've had hurricanes, I think, three or four of the last four or five years,” she explained. “We need a good year to recover and that just hasn't happened yet.”
Local farmers had high hopes 2019 would be a recovery year, Loveland said.
“The year started out rough with a drought early on. A lot of the corn crop dried up,” she said. “Whatever is left, they're trying to get harvested before Dorian comes blowing through.”