As if 2012 hadn’t been tough enough on farmers because of the severe drought that parched much of the U.S., Mother Nature thought she’d have one more go at it before calling it a year.
Last week, super storm Sandy wreaked havoc along the East Coast, threatening farmers once again.
While early estimates project Sandy to have caused about $30 billion in property damages and another $10 billion to $30 billion in lost business, the overall impact on agriculture fortunately may be less dire.
Since the growing season was essentially complete on much of the East Coast and many farmers sped up harvesting ahead of Sandy, the overall picture isn’t so much black as it is grey. But, that’s not to underestimate localized crop damage that is severe in places.
While it could be another week before final numbers start rolling in, it is known that some farmers are facing massive flooding, while others are challenged with a domino effect of the storm’s aftermath.
For example, in Maryland and Delaware, both ranked high in young chicken meat production, power outages, transportation disruptions and a potential lack of feed could be detrimental to poultry farmers.
In New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall, some farmers are challenged with direct losses to crops and livestock, as well as structural and property damage and lost business.
New Jersey Farm Bureau officials estimate that 80 percent of the state’s crops were already harvested, which makes the situation less ominous than what it could have been.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper is reporting that agricultural damage in the Chesapeake Bay area was minimal, estimating potential damage to 2,000 acres of small grains, including wheat, barley and oats.
Some wheat that farmers in Virginia Beach just planted will be included in that number.
In Virginia’s Suffolk and Western Tidewater region, where 60 percent of the cotton crop has not been harvested, Sandy could have been disastrous. Fortunately, it’s estimated that the total cotton loss will only be several hundred pounds per acre in that area.
(For an earlier article on the storm, see Hurricane Sandy brushes Virginia, Carolina crops ).
As for food prices, agricultural economists have said there will likely only be a short-term shock, but there shouldn’t be long-term effects. Likely, local restaurants and some grocery stores could be challenged with a lack of local food products.
For those farmers who were affected, the Farm Service Agency is urging them to keep a record of their losses, including livestock deaths, as well as expenses like feed purchases, lost supplies and increased transportation costs.
Producers with damaged farmland should contact their local FSA office. The Emergency Conservation Program may be able to assist farmers who need to repair farmland or remove debris due to Sandy.
Further, crops insured by federal crop insurance or by the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program are covered when floodwaters have rendered them valueless.