Friday , July 19 2019

Farmers in Hurricane Florence’s path race to cushion blow


North Carolina corn farmer Darren Armstrong is racing to harvest as much as he can before potentially the worst storm in 64 years hits the state.
It’s already one of the busiest times of the year for US growers as they reap what they sowed in the spring. Now, Armstrong and scores of other crop, poultry and livestock farmers are
even busier harvesting corn, stockpiling feed, moving livestock, hooking up generators and, most importantly, safeguarding their families from Hurricane Florence.
The storm is forecast to make landfall in the state on Thursday night or early Friday.
It may pound North Carolina with an ocean surge, winds over 100 miles an hour and five days of rain. Any flooding could compromise fields that haven’t been picked yet this season for crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes.
Armstrong, 46, is battling to get as much corn as possible out of the fields and into bins.
His family began harvesting their 4,500 acres in mid-August, a couple of weeks late because wet weather had delayed planting.
“We’re trying to finish,” Armstrong said in a telephone interview on Tuesday from his combine while harvesting corn. “We are probably not going to make it.”
By the time the rain starts, roughly three-quarters of his corn should be harvested. Another 700 to 1,000 acres may be left standing, exposed to the belting wind and rain. His family has soybeans growing on another 4,500 acres, and that crop won’t be ready to harvest for another month. His farm is in Hyde County, which is right on the coast, and his soybeans also may have to endure the “salt spray” the storm carries with it from the ocean.
While millions of residents are moving inland, Armstrong plans to stay on or near his farm with his family.
“There is so much here to look after,” he said. “I feel safe at home. We have supplies. We have done it before.”
Armstrong’s experience appears to be similar to that of many other farmers across the state. They are taking steps to prepare for the storm but can do little as it passes over
their fields, as well as pastures and barns with cattle, hogs
and poultry. North Carolina is the top US turkey producer, ranks third for chicken and is home to more hogs than any state other than Iowa, government data show.

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