Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Aftermath of Florence will last long in the Carolinas

Though Hurricane Florence is long gone, the Carolinas will be feeling the effects for a long time to come. Not only did the storm kill 45, but flooding from the slow-moving storm (which set records in some places) hurt crops too. 

"For farmers, Florence could not have come at a worse time; crops were maturing, and harvest had only begun. Depending on their production patterns, many farmers have seen several years of financial losses due to low crop prices. This leaves farmers, many of whom have not fully recovered from Hurricane Matthew two years ago, in a weakened financial condition before the hurricane hit," Harwood Schaffer and Daryll Ray write in their Agricultural Policy Analysis Center column.

Early estimates of farm losses range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. North Carolina grows 50 percent of the nation's tobacco, is the second-biggest pork production state, and the nation's largest source of sweet potatoes. The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates that 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs died in the floods; those farmers will not only be deprived of the profits from those animals, but will have to pay to dispose of them as the floodwaters recede. They will also need to clean up hog manure if it overflowed from the lagoons. Other affected crops in the Carolinas include cotton, peanuts, corn, and soybeans.

Most farmers have crop insurance, but payouts are based on crop prices. "When prices are low, and farmers need the protection the most, they receive the lowest insurance payments," Schaffer and Ray write. "If Congress were to adopt a supply-management program with loan rates near the full cost of production, and if the price component of crop insurance were based on the loan rate, farmers would be better protected than they are under current policies."

In addition to damage suffered by crops and livestock, many farms and roads sustained structural damage that will take a lot of time and money to fix, Schaffer and Ray write. And finally, the toxic ash pools from coal-fired power plants flooded in some areas, releasing hazardous waste. Schaffer and Ray recommend revisiting containment regulations for hog waste and fly ash to better cope with increasingly extreme weather.

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