Farmers mostly unscathed by Hurricane Irma


Local farmers were lucky during Hurricane Irma, according to Clemson Extension Agent Dave DeWitt.

"We we're rather unscathed in our area," he said. "Some places got a little wind and some rain, but I haven't heard any reports of anything too bad."

There may have been some damage to the cotton crop, DeWitt said, but the cotton hasn't been defoliated to remove the leaves yet, so it should have been well protected.

DeWitt said most of the corn has been harvested, and soybeans and cotton and peanuts are just now starting to get ready for harvest.

"Most people didn't start peanuts," he said. "They might have had some starting to get ready, but decided to wait till the storm passed before they started digging."

According to a South Carolina Agriculture Commission news release, farmers throughout the state are hoping to experience minimal crop damage and infrastructure loss from the storm. With the mere size of Hurricane Irma, a large portion of the state's 25,000 farmers may have seen impacts.

Farmers who have experienced losses are encouraged to contact their Clemson University County Extension agent, to complete an official ESF-17 Damage Assessment Form, according to the release.

"Early reports indicate somewhat minimal crop losses," said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. "With localized rains, flooding and heavy winds, a large part of farmers' recovery will depend on how quickly fields drain and when crops can be harvested. Unlike after Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, it appears this week's forecast will help farmers quickly get back into the fields."

Farmers are now hoping for dry weather through October, DeWitt said.

Hurricane Irma's timing coincided with the harvest of many crops including peanuts, cotton, fruits and vegetables. Many farmers are also preparing their fields for fall planting.

According to the release, farmers experienced a $375 million loss of crops in 2015 from Hurricane Joaquin and another $52 million in 2016 from Hurricane Matthew.

"Farmers are very resilient, but having already experienced tremendous crop losses the past two years, we hope for a very quick recovery," Weathers said.

"It will have been a good year from start to finish if we can just get through harvest season right now," DeWitt said.