Tobacco, Poultry Among North Carolina Farm Losses from Irene

August 30, 2011

North Carolina farmers felt the financial weight of Hurricane Irene’s winds and heavy rains Sunday as inspections following the storm revealed damage to field crops, poultry and other agricultural businesses.

photo courtesy of Tim Burkitt, FEMA

State political and agricultural leaders touring eastern North Carolina the day after Irene left the state said they saw tobacco stalks knocked over in fields and other damage to corn and cotton. Gov. Beverly Perdue, taking an aerial tour of eastern North Carolina, said soybean crops she saw in Jones County may have fared better, but farmers were still taking a hit from the storm damage.

“It’s just been hard for agriculture,” Perdue, a Democrat, said at a media briefing in Kill Devil Hills. She said earlier the farm damage “is going to be another huge cost to the state.”

The state Agriculture Department also said they’ve received reports of damages to greenhouses and grain storage facilities, as well as damage to an aquaculture operation in Pamlico County. It may be several days before there are dollar amounts on the damage as crop loss data is counted, department spokesman Brian Long said.

Long said initial reports show cotton bolls weren’t stripped from their plants, while tobacco farmers may have been saved by rushing their leaf to their curing barns before the storm – both good news. But the leaf curing process may have been spoiled if farmers lost power in their barns and didn’t have generators, he said.

The top leaders at the General Assembly – House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger – joined fellow Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on a separate aerial tour focused on agriculture. Berger, R-Rockingham, said he saw dead turkeys outside a damaged poultry house during an aerial tour near Kinston, in addition to damaged fields.

“We have seen from the air some fairly significant crop damage,” Berger said in an interview from Washington, N.C.

Long said farmers could receive low-interest loans from the federal government if an agricultural disaster is declared in North Carolina from the storm.

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