Farmers and agricultural officials around South Carolina are now assessing the damage from several nights of freezing and below freezing temperatures over Easter weekend. Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of Agriculture, says that damage could be far-reaching, but it will take a few days, maybe weeks, to evaluate the entire situation. “From preliminary reports from farmers around the state,” Weathers said, “we think there has been some damage. We just don’t know how much at this point.”
USDA Farm Service Agency’s County Emergency Boards are currently in the process of assessing agricultural damage at the local level. The findings will be sent directly to the USDA in Washington in the form of flash reports within the next few days.
More detailed damage assessment reports will be developed within the next few weeks and those reports will be sent to Governor Mark Sanford. The Governor’s office then requests a disaster declaration from the Secretary of Agriculture, if warranted, and the Secretary then approves or declines the request.
Damages and losses prompting disaster designations must be due to a natural disaster and a minimum 30-percent production loss of at least one crop in the county must have occurred. Natural disaster conditions come in numerous forms — from blizzards to earthquakes to hurricanes to freezes and several more.
Normal-year yield will be the average yield of the 5 years immediately preceding the disaster year for each crop.
Currently, disaster assistance is available through low-interest loans, but Congress has the authority to appropriate funding for disaster assistance.
“Whatever the results, the agricultural community will come together,” Weathers said. “It’s all about farmers helping farmers, people helping people, when the chips are down.”