North Carolina bore the worst of Hurricane Florence’s fury, which left behind a trail of terror that will cost the state’s agricultural producers $1.1 billion. Even though the storm is long gone, waters — and damages — continued to rise for at least another 10 days and officials are only now beginning to sort out the impact.
The storm hit right at harvest time for many key North Carolina commodities, escalating the damage. By comparison, Hurricane Matthew – which caused equally widespread flooding in 2016 – only cost North Carolina growers about $400 million because it came in October, after most harvests were complete.
“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” said North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”
The timing was particularly terrible for North Carolina sweet potato growers, who grow well over half the nation’s supply. A dry summer had delayed harvest and the first potatoes were being dug when news of Florence broke. For days, sweet potato growers harvested around the clock to try and get as much of the crop in as possible before the storm.
Last year, North Carolina growers produced 90,000 acres of sweet potatoes worth almost $400 million. It’s still too soon to know how badly this year’s crop was damaged.
“Growers and farmers throughout the state are still assessing their fields following Hurricane Florence –they have been anxious to get back to normal,” said Kelly McIver of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. “North Carolina sweet potato growers are resilient, and we remain optimistic.”
Meanwhile, relief efforts abound. Private agencies like Samaritan’s purse have hundreds of volunteers helping out on the ground, and are taking donations of cash and goods – you can click here to find out how to contribute.
And the Southeast Produce Council has gotten involved with direct donations of fresh produce for those in need.
”The immediate need is for produce with a longer shelf life — at least a week — potatoes, onions, apples, citrus fruit, stone fruit, etc, as many may be without power and refrigeration capabilities for a while,” said SEPC President and CEO David Sherrod. “Through our partnership with the Society of St. Andrew, we’re scheduling a load to be delivered between October 17th and 19th and are asking for our members to provide any products available. We are arranging four consolidation points for product pickup. If you can get your product to one of these consolidation points by Tuesday, October 16th, we’re happy to add it to the truck for delivery.”
The consolidation points are:
- Mack Farms – Lake Wales, FL
- L&M Companies – Moultrie, GA
- Southern Valley – Norman Park, GA
- Nickey Gregory Company – Forest Park, GA
Please contact Barbara Sayles from the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) at 863-224-0472 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a pickup at one of the consolidation points. Please note that SoSA needs confirmation of product donations by October 10th.
Please contact the SEPC at email@example.com if you are able to contribute in any way.